Letters to the Editor

Central Coast Marine Sanctuary opponents give misleading ‘facts’

I agree with Tom Hafer and Butch Powers, the presidents of the Morro Bay and Port San Luis commercial fishing organizations, when they wrote in their July 21 Viewpoint in The Tribune that because of “the many conflicting statements about a potential Central Coast marine sanctuary ... it is imperative that our community understands how a National Marine Sanctuary operates.”

However, since the authors’ organizations have historically been the primary source of conflicting statements — not to mention distorted, deceptive and misleading statements — on this subject, they probably shouldn’t presume to give our community information on how a National Marine Sanctuary operates.

They write: “While the existing West Coast NMS areas have designation documents that include a ban on oil and gas exploration or development, this ban is not permanent, as Congress and the president can overrule it.”

Here’s what that means: Congress would have to pass legislation to overturn those bans, which the president would have to sign or veto and have his veto overturned. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would have to publicly amend its regulations to allow oil and gas activities within California’s marine sanctuaries. And California’s governor, Assembly and Senate, our congressional delegation, every state and national environmental organization and the citizens of California would have to sit back and say, “Sure, no problem.”

That’s not going to happen. And San Luis Obispo County residents might appreciate the designation of a marine sanctuary barring future offshore oil development before the rigs appear off our coast, and before an oil spill shuts down our fishing grounds, as happened in May when more than 20,000 gallons of offshore oil spilled out of a ruptured pipe and into the waters off the Gaviota coast.

The authors tout their affiliation with the Our Protected Coast Coalition, of which the only other publicly known member is Amber Johnson, a political operative who, as part of a massively funded effort by Big Oil, recently worked to defeat a Santa Barbara ballot measure that would have protected that community from oil-related contamination.

Last year, Sierra Club released an economic study titled, “The Potential Economic Impacts of the Proposed Central Coast National Marine Sanctuary,” co-authored by the director of the Center for the Blue Economy at the Monterey Institute of International Studies and the director of the center’s National Ocean Economics Program. Using internationally accepted methodology, they concluded that a marine sanctuary on the Central Coast would likely result in nearly 600 new local jobs and annual economic growth of at least $23 million.

Naturally, sanctuary opponents want to discredit that study. Ms. Johnson’s OPCC circulated a “fact” sheet at the April meeting of the Port San Luis Harbor Commission containing this sentence: “After a peer review of the report, many if not most of the claims are not able to be substantiated with facts. See (put the www. Here).”

When they later managed to post an actual document on an actual website, it was not an improvement.

Here’s a real website where people can go to learn what National Marine Sanctuaries actually do: www.sanctuaries.noaa.gov.

This is a good resource for people who might be confused by “the many conflicting statements about a potential Central Coast marine sanctuary” put out by economic special interests intent on misleading.