On an ocean bluff above a resting seal and relentless waves, Kashia Pomo leaders Friday voiced opposition to new state rules that prohibit harvesting fish and other sea life at Stewarts Point.
The rules, which take effect today, establish a series of state preserves intended to help restore California's marine ecosystems.
But to the Indians with ties to Stewarts Point, the fishing ban there harms their culture, their ceremonies and the transmission of traditions to future generations.
Kashia Pomo Blessing
"Today I'm going to tell you they are interfering with our religion," Violet Parrish Chappell, a Kashia Pomo elder, told Indians and supporters who came together just up the road from the Stewarts Point Store. "And I don't think they would do that to the Catholic Church."
About 130 people stood Friday in bright sun and constant wind on a ranch owned by the Richardson family, which settled the area 130 years ago and controls about 15,000 acres.
Arch Richardson, an elder among the family's 85 descendants, invited leaders from the Stewarts Point Rancheria to bless the bluff and to mark the last day when fishing was permitted there. About a half-dozen tribal members harvested abalone in the nearby surf earlier in the day.
At noon, as young and old gathered, ospreys and pelicans passed north over the blue ocean.
Richardson was a regular at the meetings that began three years ago to set aside protected marine areas off Sonoma County. He became a strong opponent of the final plan to place a preserve along seven miles of coastline from the south end of Sea Ranch to Salt Point State Park. He said the end of fishing there is "a hard thing to deal with."
The state Fish & Game Commission last summer approved the Stewarts Point marine preserve and 20 other protected coastal areas. They did so despite strong opposition from some recreational fishermen and business people who depend upon them.
The new regulations affect 20 percent of the coast from Half Moon Bay to Point Arena, including a complete ban on fishing for 10 percent of that total area. The state Legislature called for such protected areas in 1999 when it passed the Marine Life Protection Act.