We are writing to express our opposition to the recent proposal to declare virtually all offshore seamounts, ridges and banks off the coast of California as monuments under the Antiquities Act, and permanently close these areas to commercial fishing. The document “The Case for Protecting California’s Seamounts, Ridges and Banks” was drafted and advanced behind closed doors with no public peer-reviewed scientific analysis, no NEPA analysis, and virtually no public engagement.
We discovered this secret effort after pursuing rumors, and found the justification for this proposed action is filled with sensational, inaccurate statements and omissions. The economic analysis for the proposed closures grossly understates the importance and value of the identified seamounts, ridges and banks to fisheries and fishing communities. Beyond simple ex-vessel value is the opportunity cost of losing these productive fishing grounds forever.
All the seamounts and banks in the proposal are important for fisheries. Fisheries provide healthy food for people, and our fisheries are a well-managed renewable resource. Tanner and Cortes Banks, in southern California, are critically important for many fisheries: tunas, swordfish, rockfish, spiny lobster, sea urchins, white seabass and coastal pelagic species including mackerels, bonito and market squid. In northern California, Gorda and Mendocino Ridges provide important albacore tuna fishing opportunities to portfolio fishermen who, for the past few seasons, have been unable to rely on Chinook salmon and Dungeness crab fisheries. Moreover, these areas are essential for the Commercial Passenger Fishing Vessel (CPFV) fleet, which are licensed commercial fishing boats. Closure of these important areas to commercial fishing would also deny access to the CPFV fleet and would cause disastrous economic impacts to fishermen, seafood processors and allied businesses, fishing communities and the West Coast fishing economy.