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[whitespace] Kelp Fisherman
Sea No Evil: Kelp harvesting in the Monterey Bay may soon face stiffer regulations.

Nüz

Kelp Help

The comments of kelp-conscious citizens were contained in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary's final Kelp Management Report, released last week.

The report recommends the designation of a no-kelp harvest area along a portion of Cannery Row in Monterey, exclusion of mechanical harvesting from high-population and recreational areas of the sanctuary, an annual limit of 50 percent on kelp canopy removal, and closure of the kelp beds in the northern part of the sanctuary that aren't large enough to sustain a reasonable harvest level.

The California Department of Fish and Game will study the report as it prepares a statewide kelp management plan this fall.

But folks at MBNMS have more than seaweed on the brain these days. Also on the agenda is the next wave in communication technology: undersea fiber optic cables. The MBNMS Advisory Council met Oct. 6 to discuss the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's preliminary regulations regarding the installation of submarine cables in marine sanctuaries. The council outlined environmental protection guidelines that the NOAA will consider this fall as it prepares final regulations.

"NOAA has stated that there will be marine sanctuaries that are not exempt [from fiber optic cables]," says Vicki Nichols, director of research and policy for the environmental advocacy group Save Our Shores and a member of the MBNMS Advisory Council. "We will still try to get the MBNMS on the exempted list, but if we can't we want to do our best to minimize environmental impacts."

Nichols says the cables themselves present hazards to marine life and habitat, such as submerged whales and life on the sea bottom.

Pacific Genesis wants to run an east-west cable line through the sanctuary for 58.5 miles as part of a project that would link New Zealand and Hawaii with the continental United States. Global Photon wants to run a line from Southern California along 250 miles of the sanctuary.

News For Sale

Skeptical readers are accustomed to suspecting the motives of reporters and editors when it comes to choosing what stories appear in a newspaper and how they are written. Still, the "firewall," as it's known in the biz, is supposed to insulate editorial judgment from advertising to protect the integrity of the news. You may not like the slant, but you should at least be confident that the story wasn't bought and paid for.

The Watsonville Register Pajaronian has another view. In its weekly "Progress Editions," scheduled to end Oct. 25, the RP has been offering advertisers objective-looking feature story coverage "at no additional charge" when they buy an ad.

The outrageous idea takes on an added dimension when it is done for a political candidate, as was the case in the RP's Sept. 20 issue devoted to agriculture. In that issue, Second District supervisorial candidate Christine McGuire bought a quarter-page ad, and as a thank-you gift got a quarter-page puff piece written about her, courtesy of the Register Pajaronian, along with a flattering photo. The ad displayed the requisite "Paid Political Advertisement" disclaimer, but there is no such disclaimer on the story, which is on a different page.

"I practice political law 100 percent of my time," says Marin attorney Steve Lucas, "and I've never heard of a newspaper doing anything even remotely similar to that. It's outrageous."

Lucas is chair of the Bipartisan Commission on the Political Reform Act, established in 1999 by Gov. Pete Wilson on the 25th anniversary of the passage of the state political reform act. Lucas says that if the accompanying story about McGuire is considered a campaign contribution apart from the ad, what the Register Pajaronian did for McGuire may not be illegal. Newspapers are exempted under the Reform Act from the definition of contributions to political campaigns, which exempts them from disclosure requirements for editorial content. Newspapers are free to print what they like within the limits of libel law.

But Sacramento attorney Lance Olson, who has practiced election law for 23 years, says the fact that the editorial content was not available without the purchase of the ad means the story probably meets the definition of a paid political advertisement, which requires a disclaimer if it is, according to the state election code, a published statement "paid for by the advertisers for purposes of supporting or defeating any person who has filed for an elective state or local office."

Illegal or not, Aptos resident Rowland Rebele, head of the California First Amendment Coalition, shares Lucas' outrage over the ethical choice made by the newspaper.

"It's just reprehensible to barter what purports to be editorial space with an ad without labeling it as paid political space," says Rebele. "A newspaper should not mask editorial space as ad space. The reader has a right to know what is paid for and what is honestly reported."

Officials for McGuire's opponent Ellen Pirie say that when they complained to the RP about the advertising deal, they were offered the same deal. Officials for the Ron Ruiz for District Attorney campaign say they were also offered the deal. Both campaigns declined to buy the ads, but requested that similar stories be written about them. Both were told that the story was not available without purchasing the ad.

Register Pajaronian Advertising Director Nancy Moors says the paper has been doing this for five years and never had any problems, and that political campaigns in the past have taken advantage of the offer. She declined to comment on the ethical question, referring Nüz to publisher Douglas Leifheit, who was not available for comment.

Lane Change

Just two years ago, Democratic congressional nominee Dick Lane was habitually bad-mouthing his opponent, Rep. Tom Campbell (R-San Jose), as a right-wing nut given high marks by the John Birch Society. Now, Lane is endorsing his former Reep nemesis in Campbell's improbable bid to unseat Democratic U.S Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Lane acknowledges, "I have never voted for a Republican before."

So why dick over the Dems now? Lane praises Campbell, a constitutional law prof at Stanford, as an intellectual giant who can fill the role of resident egghead in the Senate with Daniel Moynihan retiring. As for Feinstein, well, Lane muses, she doesn't quite possess the same brainpower as the Campster and she has already had eight years to do her thang. Besides, Lane argues, DiFi is getting a little long in the denture--another six-year term and she'll be in her mid-70s. "I don't see ... getting that much more out of her," Lane predicts.

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From the October 11-18, 2000 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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