This article comprehensively details the culture clash that took place between Native Americans, the North Group Science Panel, and the Science Advisory Team (SAT) involved in the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA). In 1999, the California Legislature passed the Marine Life Protection Act to create a statewide, science-driven network of marine reserves along the 1,100 miles of the California coast. The MLPA was meant to protect marine areas from overharvesting, and an initiative was formed to create a state marine reserve system advised by regional science panels. The science panel, a public body, decided that Native Americans science was not credible, they would not be allowed to present papers or be heard, and would be confined to policy statements for consideration by non-scientific entities. This complete denial of Tribal epistemologies is characteristic of settler colonialism.
As a public body, the SAT, contrary to State constitutional provisions, violated public meeting laws. The Tribes did not accept the SAT denial and historically large protests were held. Traditional ecological knowledge (TEK), modeling, and science by qualified individuals and Ph.D. marine scientists were rejected by the SAT. The SAT Levels of Protection (LOP) model greatly exaggerated take and harvest to levels that are not plausible. They extrapolated data, such as salmon by-catch numbers from another region other than the Klamath Management Zone, with questionable results. Tribal testimony would have noted and corrected SAT model flaws and resulted in more competent science.
The Best Available Science assumptions used by the SAT disregarded recommendations of inclusiveness by the National Science Foundation, which is used by federal agencies. After rejecting Native American anthropological reports, the SAT initiated their own study that violated numerous provisions of the 1974 Human Research Act. This case study demonstrates considerable advantages to SATs by allowing TEK presentations to science advisory bodies, instead of undertaking such studies solely by a SAT. There has never been an apology for the systematic discrimination detailed in this article. We conclude that science, although it has an important role to play in the development of Natural Resource regulations, must be impartial, open to all, and accepting of TEK––including Tribal monitoring results, fishing logs, survey data and modeling. Submitted materials must be judged upon the quality of the work, not the ethnic or racial background of the submitter. Although subsequent California Fish and Game Commission and Department actions to improve Tribal relations have been implemented, these programs do not address the issues raised in this article.
Corbett, John W. and Maloney, Ruthie A.
"A Clash of Cultures: The Struggle of Native Americans to Participate in Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Western Science Under California’s Marine Life Protection Act,"
IdeaFest: Interdisciplinary Journal of Creative Works and Research from Cal Poly Humboldt: Vol. 5, Article 7.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.humboldt.edu/ideafest/vol5/iss1/7