Selfish in the Sea

Many Latino anglers that fish off of L.A. County piers support the creation of Marine Protected Areas.

The opposition to creating Marine Protected Areas (MPA’s) off of Southern California’s coast has taken a sinister turn: terrorizing and attacking Latino families.  I have participated in the MPA hearings for a few months now, and I have to say that the latest turn of events does not surprise me.  When you attend these hearings, you are immediately hit with just how far the opposition is willing to go with their tactics.  They will yell, push, and perpetuate all kinds of lies.  No doubt the last hearing on October 21st (click here to view the video of the meeting), in Long Beach was a particularly contentious one, as reported by Long Beach’s Press Telegram.  Perhaps one of the most memorable comments from the anti-MPA crowd were those of a fisherman that started ranting about how if MPA’s were implemented, there would be a “revolution” that would rise against such “government oppression.” “Government oppression?” I asked myself … uhm, “the government” in this instance, is us, the public, so was he saying that the actions of us, average working-class Americans, to make sure that he and other fisherment like him did not run out of fish and therefore protect his freedom to keep on fishing would be “oppression”?  Hey, I’m all for democracy and for making sure that everyone’s way of life is respected but when you start throwing out such blatant reactionary and selfish (yes, selfish) lines you’ve crossed over onto another realm.  In fact, when your crowd starts attacking innocent children that have come to learn about civic participation, you’ve crossed a line that cannot be forgiven.

What am I talking about? Well, before and during the public comment period, some white fishermen that were unequivocally opposed to any kind of MPA being implemented in Southern California started attacking Latinos that came to the hearing in support of the MPA’s.  In one instance, totally unprovoked, a high-strung white guy started yelling at some Latino high school kids from Compton, harassing them with insulting questions like “do you even know what this is about?”,  “who brainwashed you?”, or “are they giving you extra credit to be here?”.  Nevermind that these were mostly Advanced Placement Compton students that knew quite a lot about the issue, having studied and prepped for the hearing because they wanted to learn about the “democratic process”.  I guess because they were brown, this crazy white “fisherman” guy assumed that they were just dumb kids because they happened to disagree with his point of view.  Well, to be fair, I have heard that the same harassing questions were being hurled at the students that came from Santa Monica High School (who happen to be mostly white kids).

Yet again, the stink of racism coming from some of the fishermen that showed up to the hearing to oppose MPA’s could not be erased.  When the hearing was interrupted to report that the hotel bathroom had been vandalized, the Blue Ribbon Task Force (“BRTF” for short, the body that conducts the hearings), urged everyone to calm down.  Yet what the BRTF did NOT report to the audience was what was written on the bathroom: “f*ck MLPA” (Marine Life Protection Act) and “f*ck 3″ (referring to “Map 3″, the designed map of MPA’s that best supported sustainable fishing and the regeneration of marine life):

Tagging in the bathroom of the hotel that hosted the October 21st public hearing on the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) & Marine Protected Areas (MPA's).

Tagging in the bathroom of the hotel that hosted the October 21st public hearing on the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) & Marine Protected Areas (MPA's).

The tagging of "F*ck 3" on the bathroom walls was an obvious reference to "Map 3" of the MPA's, which was supported by many nonprofits, local residents, and supporters of the environment.  Map 3 was in stark opposition to "Map 2" which was being pushed by many fishermen and big-fishing industry.

The tagging of "F*ck 3" on the bathroom walls was an obvious reference to "Map 3" of the MPA's, which was supported by many nonprofits, local residents, and supporters of the environment. Map 3 was in stark opposition to "Map 2" which was being pushed by many fishermen and big-fishing industry.

It was obvious that the tagging had been perpetuated by the anti-MPA crowd … but guess who the fishermen blamed it on? Well, why, they blamed it on the Latinos that had come to support MPA’s, of course!  Not only that, but the white  fishermen were also harassing other Latinos from East L.A.  The white fishermen would ask these Latinos families despicable questions like “do you even speak English?”, “did you come to get a free T-shirt?”, or “did they pay you to be here?”  It was a disgusting  display of just what some in the anti-MPA crowd are about.  What’s even worst: when all of this was reported to the moderators of the meeting, it was dismissed as no biggie.  Shame on them for their lax attitude, tolerating racist fishermen to pull such tactics aimed at terrorizing people!

Again: I am all for respecting everyone’s way of life.  Not all fishermen that are opposed to MPA’s are racist selfish bastards, in fact some of them are very fine men and women that are compassionate and caring and NOT selfish in the least bit.  I also understand their argument: the drafting of MPA’s must protect their way of life, respect their dignity, and ensure that their livelihoods are not placed into unjust danger.  I believe that the role of government is to protect everyone, making sure that the opportunity to prosperity is open to all, and the anti-MPA crowd should not be the exemption.  However, when the fishing industry (supported by the California Fisheries Coalition) and the fishermen resort to terrorizing tactics, lies, racism, selfishness, and they cover their eyes and ears to the fact that we ARE running out of fish, it makes it very hard for me to accept their point of view.  It defeats their argument, and they defeat themselves.  They might’ve made the Blue Ribbon Task Force blink on this round, but mark my words: we, the general public, will NOT stand for such racist displays.

To learn more about protecting the ocean for our future and our children’s future, you can visit Heal the Bay’s site on this MPA issue or read the latest OpEd from the L.A. Times.

Update: I’m also getting word that the white anti-MPA’s fishermen were harrassing the pro-MPA’s Latino anglers with questions which they would repeat over and over again such as “how old are you?” and “how long have you lived here?” (insinuating “you’re a foreigner aren’t you?!”).

It’s time to take action!

So what can you do about it?

1) Email the organizers of the “Map 2″ crowd and tell them that racism is NOT acceptable and will  NOT be tolerated:

angler4prop2@gmail.com

2) Write to the MLPA Initiative to complain and to demand that they do not tolerate the racism coming from the anti-MPA crowd:

MLPA Initiative
c/o California Resources Agency
1416 Ninth Street, Suite 1311
Sacramento, CA 95814

Email: MLPAComments@resources.ca.gov

3) You can also contact the California Fisheries Coalition (which is one of the main groups that is assisting in organizing the effort to water down the implementation of MPA’s) and demand that they denounce such racist behavior from its anti-MPA’s members:

Vern Goehring, Manager
California Fisheries Coalition
1621 13th Street, Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 444-8194
(916) 444-8195 Fax
Email: vern@cal.net

When you write to these three groups, please be respectful but firm in your demands and as detailed of as possible of what happened.