I am the commercial fishing representative on the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council, although I am not representing the SAC in my remarks about your recent story about expanding the sanctuary (“Drill, spill, or chill, baby,” May 27). When the sanctuary was created, a clear promise was made to fishermen by NOAA and elected leaders that the sanctuary would not regulate us. There are state and federal authorities empowered to do so already. Fishermen feel the sanctuary has violated this understanding in many ways. We would like to improve our relationship if the sanctuary would work with us on collaborative research, and do more to preserve good water quality, which is by far the biggest problem facing California coastal waters.
The sanctuary has presented no compelling science that says there is a need to further regulate us. We have it in writing that the sanctuary does not consider fishing as a cultural resource of coastal communities, to be protected with other sanctuary resources.
Though it is true that sanctuary status does add another layer of legal buffer against offshore oil drilling, it only takes a determined Congress, perhaps reacting to an economic or political crisis, to drill in sanctuaries, Arctic Reserves, or whereever they want. We would love to have a better relationship with the sanctuary program, but we predict as things have gone that fishermen, other ocean users, and coastal communities will have a hard time embracing a federal agency known for not keeping its promises to local folks. We hope this changes.