Cal Oceans

California’s state parks and beaches are in peril as budget cuts are threatening closures.  On November 2nd, California voters will have the chance to vote on Proposition 21, which will create a stable source of funding exclusively for state parks.  California vehicles will get free day-use admission to ALL parks in exchange for a new $18 annual fee.

How can you help?  Take a moment to endorse Prop. 21, and be sure to vote for it on November 2nd.  You can learn about more ways to get involved at www.yesforstateparks.com.

Coming Soon: New Marine Parks for Southern California

Great News for Southern California’s Ocean Health!

After more than two years of effort and 75 public meetings, state decision makers have voted to implement Southern California’s new network of marine protected areas beginning Saturday October 1st, 2011.

The new protected areas will enhance the effectiveness of the greater network of California’s marine protected areas that currently stretches from Point Conception to Point Arena (as well as a robust network at the Channel Islands).

Take a look at Southern California’s new network of protected areas here, read our press release, and send Governor Brown a letter asking him to support full implementation of the MLPA today.

CalOceans extends a warm thank you to all of the decision makers, stakeholders, and community members that helped to plan and implement Southern California’s new protected areas.

Southern California’s new network of marine protected areas went into effect on January 1st, 2012. The new protected areas will enhance the effectiveness of the greater network of California’s marine protected areas that currently stretches from Point Conception to Point Arena.

Take a look at recent media coverage of the new network of protected areas, download and print maps, read about our what our partners are doing to help enforce and monitor the MPAs, and be sure to check out our slide show celebrating the new South Coast MPAs!

One of the amazing things about California’s coastline is how diverse it is. The central part of the coast bears almost no resemblance to the southern portion, both with their own stunning array of sea life and habitat types, from rocky reefs to kelp forests and pillars.

The north coast of California is similarly unique—and this region has been subject to far less human interference, leaving its fisheries relatively healthy compared to their southern counterparts (you can, for example, still harvest abalone on the north coast, in limited quantities). It is a region with a rich history of living with and off the sea, and through the MLPA, we have a great chance to keep its traditional commercial, recreational and subsistence fishing practices alive and well.

This op-ed in the Eureka Times-Standard by former Assemblywoman and Sonoma resident Virginia Strom-Martin, who sits on the MLPA’s Blue Ribbon Task Force, tells the story of the north coast’s efforts to create a holistic plan for ocean conservation, calling it the most open and transparent process she’s ever been involved in.

Last week, north coast residents had a chance to learn and ask questions about the ongoing marine protected area selection process at a series of Open Houses throughout the region. Now the regional stakeholders will gather to reach a consensus on a final network of MPAs to present to the Fish and Game Commission later this year.

As Strom-Martin says, “It is only by working together that we can ensure a healthy ocean and successfully teach future generations to be good stewards for our precious community assets.” Hear-hear, and kudos to all the north coasters working to create a legacy of ocean health for their part of California.

Open houses have been scheduled in Northern California for the public to review and provide input on four draft proposals developed through the Marine Life Protection  Act (MLPA) Initiative. The open houses will focus on draft MPA proposals for the North Coast Study Region, which covers state waters from the  California/Oregon border to Alder Creek near Point Arena in Mendocino County.

Members of the public are invited to attend at any time during the day and evening sessions – in five locations throughout the study region – to visit informational stations and offer input.

Members of the MLPA North Coast Regional Stakeholder Group developed the draft MPA proposals during Round 2 of a three-round planning process. They will be on hand to answer questions and discuss how these ideas will help meet the goals of improved marine life, habitats and overall ecosystem health. MLPA Initiative staff, California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) staff, California State Parks staff and members of the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task .

Yet another scientific study has been published showing the benefits of marine protected areas – both for fish and for fishers. The study, published in the journal Conservation Biology, showed that fishermen pulled more and bigger fish from waters near MPAs.

“Resistance to closures and to gear restrictions from fishermen and the fishing industry is based largely on the perception that these options are a threat to profits,” said Tim McClanahan, a senior conservationist at the US-based Wildlife Conservation Society , which conducted the study. “These findings challenge those perceptions.”

Policymakers—seeing how Kenya’s marine protected areas are breathing life into depleted fisheries—are considering adopting similar policies in countries neighboring Kenya.

This study joins the list now longer than a full-grown giant sea bass showing that carefully selected marine protected zones can pay major dividends– strengthening our resolve as we forge ahead with California’s great experiment in community-driven ocean protection, the Marine Life Protection Act.

On April 30, the MLPA Initiative released maps and specifications of the marine protected area plan recommended for the North Central Coast.

View them here: http://www.dfg.ca.gov/mlpa/northcentralcoast.asp

The Blue Ribbon Task Force’s “Integrated Preferred Alternative” is based on three proposals developed by regional stakeholders.

Initiative staff writes:

“The BRTF adopted the IPA on April 23, 2008 and will forward this recommended preferred alternative to the California Fish and Game Commission, along with three proposals developed by the MLPA North Central Coast Regional Stakeholder Group in March 2008.”

It started raining in San Rafael around 5:30 pm last night, right around rush hour, and the 250 people who’d shown up to talk about marine protected areas were getting antsy. They’d been there since 9 am, wearing shirts and hats and stickers, supporting one proposal or another, waiting for their two minutes to have their say and now there were kids to pick up, dinners to get ready, long drives home on the winding, dark, wet roads of Sonoma and Marin. It’s not as amazing to me anymore that two hundred plus people showed up at a public meeting on marine protected areas — we’ve had at least that many at the final decision meetings for the Channel Islands and the Central Coast — no, I was amazed by how many were left when public comment finally opened. At 10 pm.

Fifty people were there to talk about their kayak fishing, their time fishing with kids, the marine mammals they see wounded and sick on the beach, the abalone and kelp they see underwater. For the last year, we’ve had a group of 45 volunteers from all different background and interests, going over the coast with a magnifying glass, looking at the best habitats, the best fishing holes, the most photogenic dive sites. That group came up with three proposals, placing between 9% and 14% of the 760 square mile region in fully protected marine reserves. Since those proposals were announced letters, emails and petitions have poured in to the state and last night was the chance to have your say in person.

Today, the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Task Force looked at the menu before them and faced the very hard job of pulling it all together. They picked ideas from each of the proposals to make their recommendation, including places like the Farallons and Point Reyes, where all three groups had virtually identicial suggestions. It’s a real compromise, and I expect that for some once the bleariness of the last two days wears off, they’ll wake up wondering what happened to my favorite site? What is going on at Duxbury reef? But from my view, it’s a hopeful sign. Maybe we can all get along.

Here’s a shot by one of the stalwarts from last night, John Albers-Mead of the Friends of Fitzgerald Marine Reserve. A Hermissenda nudibranch making slow and steady progress, like the MLPA.

After more than two years of effort and 75 public meetings, state decision makers have voted to implement Southern California’s new network of marine protected areas beginning Saturday October 1st, 2011.

The new protected areas will enhance the effectiveness of the greater network of California’s marine protected areas that currently stretches from Point Conception to Point Arena (as well as a robust network at the Channel Islands).

Take a look at Southern California’s new network of protected areas here, read our press release, and send Governor Brown a letter asking him to support full implementation of the MLPA today.

CalOceans extends a warm thank you to all of the decision makers, stakeholders, and community members that helped to plan and implement Southern California’s new protected areas.

Implementation of the North Coast marine protected areas on December 19th marks the completion of our nation’s first statewide underwater park system. Thanks to the landmark Marine Life Protection Act, beloved areas like Cape Mendocino, Point Reyes, the Big Sur Coast, and La Jolla will be enjoyed by divers, kayakers, swimmers, birders, and tidepoolers for generations to come.

Over the last eight years, business owners, scientists, tribes, fishermen, conservationists and government  officials have met up and down the coast to map out protections that  will provide economic and environmental benefits for their communities. Their hard work, guided by input from tens of thousands of Californians, has created a system of safeguards that we can all be proud of.

CalOceans thanks all of the stakeholders, policymakers, scientists, and avid ocean lovers that worked so hard to make this possible.  Please see the Department of Fish and Game’s North Coast page for detailed regulations and maps, and ourmap of the North Coast’s new marine protected areas.

And, don’t forget to check out our great new slide show celebrating our new statewide network of MPAs and the people that love them.

Marine Protected Areas

Marine protected areas (MPAs) are protected spaces set aside in the ocean, or “underwater parks,” similar to parks on land. MPAs come in all shapes and sizes, but are most effective when protecting areas rich in habitat.  Take the above example — the top photograph shows a no take marine protected area in Fiji, while the bottom photography shows a nearby area where fishing is permitted.

Why marine protected areas are needed

Real problems lurk below the ocean’s surface along California’s coast. For example:

  • White abalone are on the verge of extinction
    • Federal regulators issued emergency Rockfish closures in 2002
    • Fish size declined 45% along the West Coast in the last 21 years
    • 75% of California’s kelp forests have disappeared since the 1960s
    • 90% of the big fish that existed in the 1950s are gone

California’s ocean is in trouble – and MPAs can help solve current problems; and safeguard against future problems like global warming and ocean acidification.

The science is clear: marine protected areas work!

MPAs protect entire ecosystems. From sharks to seastars, every creature living in that space is protected.

Marine reserves allow fish, mammals, and other marine life to breed,
feed, and succeed without human interference. Animals living inside
marine reserves also help replenish fish populations outside their
borders because the babies disperse in ocean currents, spilling over
into unprotected areas.

In PISCO’s scientific survey of more than 100 reserves worldwide, scientists found:

  • A 446% average increase in biomass of animals and plants
    • A 166% average increase in number of plants or animals
    • A 28% average increase in body size of animals
    • A 21% average increase in animal and plant diversity
    • A 1000% increase in of biomass and density of heavily fished species

Extensive scientific research demonstrates that MPAs, and especially
fully-protected marine reserves, can help bring back big fish and
restore habitats.

At the Cabo Pulmo National Park, a no-take marine reserve in Baja California, results of a 10-year analysis showed a whopping 460 percent increase in biomass between 1999-2009.

The northernmost stretch of California shelters some of the state’s most spectacular coastline. From the Oregon border to Alder Creek near Point Arena, remote wilderness, river mouths, rocky cliffs and sea stacks provide drama above the sea, while an array of marine life moves below. The Marine Life Protection Act will serve to preserve ocean creatures and habitat from future harm by establishing Marine Protected Areas offshore. The Smith River and Point St. George mark the northern end of the study area.

Half a mile offshore from Crescent City stands Castle Rock Refuge, an important sanctuary for Aleutian Canada geese and nesting seabirds – next to the Farallon Islands, the largest nesting seabird colony south of Alaska and a resting place for harbor seals, northern elephant seals, California sea lions and Stellar’s sea lions.

Moving south, the Klamath spills out into the Pacific, prime habitat for Chinook and Coho salmon, as well as rainbow trout. Tragically, in 2002, due to agricultural diversion and warm temperatures, an estimated 34,000 adult salmon perished before being able to reproduce.

Further down the coast lies Humboldt Bay, known both for its treacherous entrance and for being the oyster capital of California, providing 70 percent of oysters sold within the state. The success of commercial aquaculture comes after decades of heavy industry on the bay. Thanks to cooperative efforts on behalf of the environment, water quality has improved and sustainability become assured.

Cape Mendocino, the westernmost point in California, shields the coast from the development common in the rest of the state. On land, the population remains sparse, but in the sea, a remarkable diversity continues, culminating in Point Arena, where striped seaperch, kelp and rock greenling, cabezon and lingcod are just some of the species common to the area. With proper protection in place, the thriving species along the North Coast will continue to flourish – and the diminished marine environments will return to historic levels, ensuring a future for all.

Northern California’s ocean is now protected in a new network of underwater state parks at Point Reyes Headlands, Bodega Head, the Farallon Islands,  Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, and other ocean hot spots.

The new marine protected area network went into effect on May 1, 2010 – setting aside the region’s richest kelp forests, rocky reefs, and canyons to boost the health and productivity of the entire coastline.  University and citizen scientists are monitoring the new protected areas to track their effectiveness.

The network includes 21 marine protected areas designed to protect the region’s most sensitive sea life and habitats while leaving almost 90 percent of the coast open to fishing.CalOceans extends its congratulations and thanks to the stakeholders; scientists; policymakers; and concerned citizens that made this achievement possible.

These are just a few of the places protected in the new network of Marine Protected Areas:

Point Arena
Point Arena is one of the major upwelling zones along the West coast of the U.S., which means it is a source of nutrients for fish and wildlife. Kelp forests and rocky reefs shelter red abalone and make this a popular site for free divers. At Arena Rock, underwater caves host a highly diverse fish fauna that once included abundant populations of yelloweye and vermillion rockfish, lingcod and Giant Pacific Octopus. Manchester State Beach is the longest stretch of sandy beach north of Bodega Bay and visitors to Alder Creek or the Garcia River can watch pods of harbor porpoises at play.

Salt Point
Divers and fishermen head 90 miles north of San Francisco to the shoreline around Salt Point. Nearby Stump Beach has one of the only sandy beaches north of Jenner Beach and Fisk Mill offers stunning ocean views from Sentinel Rock, via a short hike through lush Bishop pine growth. Bull kelp thrives along this stretch of coastline and can grow up to ten inches per day.

Sonoma Coast
The Sonoma coast is defined by long, sandy beaches extending for miles beneath overhanging rocky bluffs, peppered with natural arches and secluded coves. Beachgoers encounter giant green anemone and purple stars as they explore tidepools, while birders can spot godwits, willets and brown pelicans. Harbor seals lounge at Goat Rock and gray whales migrate through these waters from December to April. The Sonoma coast is also an angler’s paradise, as rockfish, salmon and red abalone all call the offshore reefs and waters of the Sonoma coast home.

Point Reyes
The Point Reyes peninsula hosts 45% of North American bird species and almost 18% of California’s plant species, including 23 threatened and endangered species. From the eelgrass beds in Tomales Bay to the Tule elk grazing the headlands, it’s clear that Point Reyes is a wildland habitat like no other in California. Through a haze of salty fog, visitors can see, hear, smell and even feel the thunderous ocean breakers washing over long sandy beaches and crashing into rocky cliffs. This coastal habitat is home to humpback and gray whales, seals, sea lions, and elephant seals.

In 1999, California passed the first law of its kind in the country-the Marine Life Protection Act, or MLPA. Sponsored by coastal legislators, the MLPA requires the state to improve the way it protects the ocean. The MLPA passed with bipartisan support, and was backed by scientists, divers, educators, fishermen, and conservation organizations.  Surveys show that Californians across the state want more protection for the oceans.

In 2005, the state took a new approach, combining science with public input. The Marine Life Protection Act Initiative includes:

  • Regional stakeholder groups made up of local ocean users from a variety of industries, backgrounds, and interests
    • Opportunities for the general public to review plans and comment at every step in the process
    • A high-level Blue Ribbon Task Force of policy experts who provide recommendations to stakeholders and the state
    • An advisory team of biologists, economists, and other scientific experts

A regional approach is being used to redesign MPAs along California’s 1,100-mile coast. The state has been divided into five study regions:

Central Coast – Pigeon Point to Point Conception (Implemented September 2007)
North Central Coast – Point Arena to Pigeon Point (Implemented May 2010)
South Coast – Point Conception to the Mexican border (Implementation January 2012)
North Coast – Oregon border to Point Arena (under consideration by Fish and Game Commission)
San Francisco Bay – Options Report Being Prepared

How we benefit

Marine protected areas provide economic, recreational, and environmental benefits to people, whether they live on the water?s edge or far inland. They can serve as savings banks for California’s commercially and recreationally important species, by restoring fish populations inside the MPA which can then help replenish nearby waters. This spillover effect can benefit both fishermen and seafood consumers.

Around the world, marine reserves serve as some of the most popular scuba-diving destinations.  These protected ocean places also provide wonderful opportunities for activities like bird watching and kayaking. Healthy marine habitats help sustain local economies while ensuring that future generations can enjoy the same quality of life.

MONTEREY, CA – For five years, 29 marine protected areas (MPAs) have dotted California’s central coast. Early monitoring of the MPAs, created in response to declining ocean health, suggest the protected areas are on track, with some fish species including cabezon, lingcod and black rockfish increasing in relative abundance in marine reserves compared to waters outside the boundaries. The MPA monitoring program has been a huge collective effort, as divers and fishermen teamed up with scientists to create a baseline of ecological health for the region’s coastal waters against which future MPA performance can be measured.

Hundreds of resource managers, policy makers, stakeholders, scientists and conservationists are gathering for the State of the California Central Coast symposium on Feb. 27 – 29 in Monterey. They’ll learn about new findings from monitoring efforts and discuss perspectives on marine protected area governance and management. The event will be kicked off by Carmel City Mayor Jason Burnett and California Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird. To view the symposium agenda go here.

The groups below have spearheaded hands-on learning and monitoring, and will be presenting their findings at the symposium. Their contact information has been provided where applicable. For more information and press passes to the symposium contact Brendan McLaughlin at Brendan@resource-media.org or via cell at 415-200-6148. For live coverage during the symposium, follow @thepacificocean on Twitter and the hashtag #CalifMPAs.

Through Reef Check, researchers and citizen-scientists SCUBA dive to survey shallow and deep rocky habitats, kelp forests, rocky shores, estuaries, beaches and other key ecosystems along the central coast. They monitor ecologically and economically important species of fishes and invertebrates, and human activities including fishing and recreational use.
Contact: Jan Freiwald at 831-345-8167 or jfreiwald@reefcheck.org
Symposium presentation date: Wed, Feb. 27, 1:10 – 2:45pm

The California Collaborative Fisheries Research Program (CCFRP) uses local charter boats and volunteer anglers to monitors four central coast MPAs. It provides scientific monitoring of these reserves in order to evaluate their effectiveness as a tool for conservation and fisheries management, as required by the state.
Symposium presentation date: Wed, Feb. 27 1:10 – 2:45pm

Citizen science efforts like MPA Watch have trained hundreds of volunteers and docents to monitor beach and coastal use in and around protected areas like Natural Bridges and Ano Nuevo. The information is used to inform enforcement and management agencies.
Contact: Steve Shimek at 831-663-9460
Symposium presentation date: Thursday, February 28, 4pm

Volunteers in Save Our Shores’ Dockwalker program share information with boaters and fishermen about MPAs, and conduct ocean protection workshops in local schools. In turn, schools are making visits to the underwater parks part of their outdoor education, because in addition to enabling kids to watch wildlife in nature, many now feature full-color educational interpretive displays and docent programs.
Contact: Laura Kasa at 831-462-5660 ext. 8
Symposium presentation date: Wednesday, Feb. 27, 4:00 – 4:30pm

MORE INFO

The protected areas were created through the landmark Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) of 1999.
For more info about the central coast’s underwater parks, and photos for download go to http://www.caloceans.org/.
For live coverage during the symposium, follow @thepacificocean on Twitter. Or look for the hashtag #CalifMPAs.

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Underwater Parks Day 2013 – Saturday, January 19

January 13th, 2013

The first month of the year is perhaps the best time to experience California’s ocean at its finest – which is why the 5th Annual Underwater Parks Day on Saturday, January 19th is a great reason to hit the coast and enjoy a marine protected area.  To find an event near you, see the full schedule of events by region linked below.

It’s already been a busy month for California’s new network of over 100 underwater parks, which was completed just last December.  Grey whales are traveling south along the coast to lagoons in Baja, California where they will give birth to calves. Some preemies and their mothers are already showing up off the coast of Los Angeles and San Diego, delighting whale watchers.

Further north, in Piedras Blancas and Año Nuevo State Park’s marine protected areas, male elephant seals are engaging in their spectacular, violent mating rituals, while females are giving birth to a new generation of pups.  Friends of the Elephant Seal and Ano Nuevo State Park docents offer guided tours of the action to visitors, who should use extreme caution and approach seals only with the assistance of a guide.

Stewards of the states’ underwater parks have planned activities and celebrations throughout the California coast at state beaches, aquaria, and nature centers, which are perfect for kids and adults to enjoy a day surrounded by sea life and learn more about the benefits of protecting California’s prime ocean habitats.

Southern California Events (San Diego to Santa Barbara)
Central California Events (Morro Bay to Santa Cruz)
Northern California Events (San Francisco to Arcata).

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  • underwater parks day
  • mlpa
  • mpa
  • MPAs
  • Marine Protected Areas

A Trifecta of Ocean Triumphs at the end of 2012

December 21st, 2012

In December, three major ocean protection wins came to life after years in the making and tireless efforts by ocean advocates.  Sea otter recovery efforts got a boost when the US Fish and Wildlife Service decided to scrap its program to relocate them out of their native habitat in southern California. President Obama announced a move to expand federal marine sanctuaries along the Northern California coast, permanently banning oil drilling. The newly protected area will more than double the Gulf of the Farallones and Cordell Bank national marine sanctuaries by 2,771 square miles. And the San Francisco Chronicle noted they’ll add to new state marine protected areas, providing a range of state-federal protection from Bodega Bay north to Point Arena in Mendocino County.

The third win? Californians celebrated the grand opening of 19 north coast Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and the completion of its statewide network, making the state a national leader in ocean protection.

The Los Angeles Times’ Ken Weiss reported on the achievement in California’s marine reserve network now complete. He noted that the Marine Life Protection Act in 1999 directed officials to model the network after a “familiar strategy on land — setting up parks and refuges to conserve wildlife. Michael Sutton, a California Fish and Game commissioner said:
“It’s not rocket science. If you protect wildlife habitat and you don’t kill too many, wildlife tends to do well. We’ve done that on land with the waterfowl population. Now, we’ve done it in the ocean for fish.”

California Fish and Game Commissioner and lifelong recreational fisherman Richard B. Rogers told the Los Angeles Times that his work to establish the reserves was “the single most important thing I’ve done in life, other than marrying my wife and raising my five kids.” He supported the reserves for one reason:“I want to make sure my grandchildren have some fish to eat.”

The Los Angeles Times article was carried in scores of media outlets such as MSNBC. An Associated Press brief, California completes network of undersea sanctuaries, was carried by media outlets such as the Sacramento Bee and KCRA, and noted that “California’s 848-square-mile marine reserve, the largest network of undersea sanctuaries in the continental United States, is now complete.” Public News Service radio also covered it.

Bill Lemos, a North Coast former schoolteacher and stakeholder member, wrote in a Santa Rosa Press Democrat op-ed, New era of coastal protection begins today, about how the community rallied around their concern for ocean health to make the new reserves a reality: “At a time when political divisiveness rules Washington, their willingness to set aside differences to create this remarkable achievement speaks volumes about the North Coast culture of getting a job done.” 

In his op-ed in the Mendocino Beacon, InterTribal Sinkyone Wilderness Council Executive Director Hawk Rosales described the tribes’ involvement in the design of the MPAs that resulted in the continuance of traditional non-commercial tribal uses in the 13 State Marine Conservation Areas.

On Huffington Post, Francesca Koe with NRDC described some of the new MPAs and featured a vibrant slide show on the North Coast MPAs created by Resource Media and Ocean Conservancy.

Jennifer Savage with Ocean Conservancy reported from Mendocino in The Blog Aquatic’s California Celebrates 19 New Underwater Parks, Completes First Statewide Network in Nation. In New North Coast ‘Underwater Parks’ in Effect Today in the Lost Coast Output, she provided a real-time glimpse at those new – and rough – north coast reserves: “Today, Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012 is not the best day to visit one of the new North Coast marine protected areas. The waves are big (the 22 buoy is showing 14 feet at the moment), the wind is picking up (13 mph, gusts to 21 mph), and more rain is on the way (up to a quarter inch)…”

In An Ocean Legacy to Make Californians Proud, Karen Garrison with NRDC wrote of the long road in shaping the network, and looked ahead:
“The final piece of California’s marine protected area network will go into effect this month, but the story will continue. A Monitoring Enterprise is working with citizens, fishermen and scientists to study the impacts of these protected areas. Their research will help inform future policy.”

On the social media front, Upwell created this happy otter crowd-pleasing graphic to celebrate the news on Facebook.

For more information about the Marine Life Protection Act, and to view detailed maps, visit www.dfg.ca.gov/mlpa.

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Statewide Network Complete!

December 19th, 2012

Enjoy this new slide show showcasing some of the amazing habitats protected by California’s new marine protected areas–and some of the ways people are enjoying them.

CalOceans thanks all of the thousands of activists, scientists, fishermen, tribal leaders, and avid ocean lovers that made this tremendous achievement possible.

In September 2007, the California Fish and Game Commission implemented the first significant network of protected areas (MPAs) on the coast of the continental U.S. This monumental achievement is the result of more than seven years of work since the passage of the Marine Life Protection Act in 1999.
The network places a total of 18% of state ocean waters off California’s central coast in some type of protected area. Of the overall area of more than 1100 square miles, 8% is in fully protected marine reserves (up from 1%), 10% will allow limited fishing and the remaining coast will be left open.

Here are a few of the special places included in the new Central Coast MPAs:

Ano Nuevo

If you haven’t taken a trip to the bluffs and beaches of Ano Nuevo, you’re missing one of the great wildlife walks in California. Each spring, huge male elephant seals challenge each other for mates, bellowing and bumping their chests on the beach below. Hundreds of seabirds live on the offshore rocks and islands, but offshore populations of rockfish have dwindled. The
new marine reserve at Ano Nuevo protects these fish and their habitats and also accommodates local sport and squid fishermen.

Monterey Peninsula
Jutting out at the southern end of Monterey Bay, the peninsula catches the rich ocean currents running along the coast, bringing food to the anemones, starfish, and other marine life along the peninsula’s rocky shores. The Monterey peninsula draws tourists from around the world, who dive, kayak, and visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium to catch a glimpse of the wildlife underwater. The tiny Ed Ricketts marine reserve receives 64,000 diver visits each year. Because of the amazing diversity of the area, many divers asked for more protection than the Commission provided.

Point Lobos
Beyond the grassy playgrounds of Pebble Beach and Carmel lie vibrant underwater reefs. Strawberry anemones and purple hydrocoral cover granite reefs and pinnacles, where delicate nudibranchs dance. The old Point Lobos marine reserve was one of the state’s oldest protected areas and best success stories, home to big, productive rockfish and hosting thousands of human visitors each year, both on land and under the water. Point Lobos reserve has now been expanded and buffered with a conservation area, protecting underwater habitats for diving while allowing salmon fishing and improving scientific research.

Big Sur Coast
One of the most spectacular and remote locations along the central coast, Big Sur’s submarine canyons and rocky pinnacles host rare coldwater corals, playful sea otters, and large rockfish. The new reserve protects one of the largest and most productive kelp beds in the state, while allowing spot prawn trappers to sustain their valuable local fishery.

Point Arguello
As California’s coastline begins to point east, currents from the north and south mix, bringing cold and warmer water species together. At Pt. Arguello, you can find tunas and rockfish, oystercatchers and pelicans, squid and sea otters. Biologists have identified this area as critical to the recovery of southern sea otters, which forage in the kelp beds south of the Point. The Vandenberg marine reserve protects wildlife and the young fish that thrive in the currents eddying along this part of the Central Coast. The currents also link this MPA to those at the Channel Islands.

Yet another scientific study has been published showing the benefits of marine protected areas – both for fish and for fishers. The study, published in the journal Conservation Biology, showed that fishermen pulled more and bigger fish from waters near MPAs.

“Resistance to closures and to gear restrictions from fishermen and the fishing industry is based largely on the perception that these options are a threat to profits,” said Tim McClanahan, a senior conservationist at the US-based Wildlife Conservation Society , which conducted the study. “These findings challenge those perceptions.”

Policymakers—seeing how Kenya’s marine protected areas are breathing life into depleted fisheries—are considering adopting similar policies in countries neighboring Kenya.

This study joins the list now longer than a full-grown giant sea bass showing that carefully selected marine protected zones can pay major dividends– strengthening our resolve as we forge ahead with California’s great experiment in community-driven ocean protection, the Marine Life Protection Act.

On December 15, 2010 California’s Fish and Game Commission approved a sweeping ocean health plan for Southern California, protecting iconic coastal habitats like South La Jolla, Laguna Beach, Palos Verdes, and Point Dume.

Commissioner Richard B. Rogers voted in favor of the plan, saying it struck an “elegant balance” between conservation and fishing interests. “The overarching goal is to return California to the sustainable abundance I observed growing up,” the lifelong scuba diver said.  Click here for a map of the Integrated Preferred Alternative for Southern California.

Implementation of the new south coast marine protected areas will take place in 2011, when the Fish and Game Commission finishes with the regulatory process.

The Southern California Coast

From the chilly waters off the Gaviota coast to the kelp-lined beaches of San Diego County, soon the region?s most precious underwater resources will receive new protections, as marine protected areas are researched and designed by a diverse group of south coast community residents.

Stretching from Pt. Conception to the Mexican border, the south coast is an iconic landscape, including the Palos Verdes Peninsula, Orange County’s coves and headlands, the coastline of the Santa Monica Mountains State Recreation Area, Point Mugu State beach, and Malibu.

But the idyllic surface of our coastal waters masks growing problems. Over time, we have seen our marine environment steadily decline as a result of unwise coastal development, urban runoff, and overuse.  These pressures have reduced the bounty of Southern California?s waters to a fraction of what our grandfathers knew.

Marine protected areas (MPAs) are a simple and urgently needed way to ensure future generations will inherit the same incredible coastal resources we have enjoyed. Like underwater parks,  they preserve sensitive plants and animals while allowing people to experience a healthier marine environment.  Southern California’s MPAs and reserves will be scientifically monitored and evaluated by state and local marine scientists for their effectiveness.

Open houses have been scheduled in Northern California for the public to review and provide input on four draft proposals developed through the Marine Life Protection  Act (MLPA) Initiative. The open houses will focus on draft MPA proposals for the North Coast Study Region, which covers state waters from the  California/Oregon border to Alder Creek near Point Arena in Mendocino County.

Members of the public are invited to attend at any time during the day and evening sessions – in five locations throughout the study region – to visit informational stations and offer input.

Members of the MLPA North Coast Regional Stakeholder Group developed the draft MPA proposals during Round 2 of a three-round planning process. They will be on hand to answer questions and discuss how these ideas will help meet the goals of improved marine life, habitats and overall ecosystem health. MLPA Initiative staff, California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) staff, California State Parks staff and members of the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task
Force will also be available.

The San Diego Union Tribune calls the marine protected area plan recommended by the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force “a good compromise.”

The Task Force met on November 11 to finalize their recommendations after receiving more than 10,000 emails and hearing over ten hours of public comment.  This level of community participation shows how passionate southern Californians are about their coast and ocean–it’s truly the region’s most iconic attraction, and many local people rely on the sea’s bounty to make a living.

The Blue Ribbon Task Force considered both the economy and environment when weighing options, and recommended a middle ground plan that balanced
the concerns of different user groups

In a November 17 editorial, the San Diego Union Tribune said the south coast plan “will be good for everyone in the long run if it allows our coastal bounty to grow and thrive.”

And that is precisely what the marine protected area plan is designed to do.  By protecting biological hot spots like Naples Reef, south La Jolla, and Point Dume, it will help rebuild depleted fish populations and restore fragile ecosystems.

  • Tags:
  • Marine Life Protection Act
  • mlpa
  • South Coast
  • Marine Protected Areas
  • Blue Ribbon Task Force
  • integrated preferred alternative

Investment banks for fish

November 12th, 2009

A new study by UC Santa Cruz biologists, published in the scientific journal PLos ONE, shows that marine reserves can restock waters outside of their boundaries, improving fishing conditions in nearby open areas.

The biologists monitored 58 sites in Puerto Penasco, Mexico, on the
northern shore of the Gulf of California.
They found that baby fish born in marine reserves drifted along the coast, where they could be caught by local anglers.

Study co-author Richard Cudney-Bueno describes marine reserves as investment banks for fish.  The more you invest in protecting big fertile fish (who produce exponentially more young–see graphic), the more interest you can collect as the babies disperse in ocean currents.

He emphasized that the location of reserves is critical–you have to protect important feeding and breeding grounds in order to maximize returns.

Luckily, southern California’s new marine protected area plan, unanimously approved by the governor-appointed Blue Ribbon Task Force on November 10, would create ocean sanctuaries where big fertile fish, and other plants and animals, can grow and multiply.

  • Tags:
  • marine reserves
  • Marine Protected Areas
  • Marine Life Protection Act
  • South Coast
  • Blue Ribbon Task Force
  • science

BRTF recommends compromise plan for south coast

November 10th, 2009

 The Marine Life Protection Act Blue Ribbon Task Force today voted unanimously to recommend a compromise marine protected area plan for southern California’s coastal ocean.

Their plan a step in the right direction, and includes critical protections for iconic places like south La Jolla, Point Dume, and Naples Reef while leaving nearly 90% of the coast open for fishing.   However, it falls short of scientists’ recommendations at Rocky Point and Catalina Island.

The Task Force will present their recommendation to the California Fish & Game Commission on December 9, and the Commission is expected to make a final decision early next year.

The Marine Life Protection Act Science Advisory Team met yesterday to assess proposals for Santa Monica Bay, San Diego, and Orange County. They emphasized the important of protecting high quality habitats where fish and invertebrates feed and breed.

By setting aside ecological hot spots–those super productive canyons, reefs, and kelp forests that act as fish nurseries–we can improve the overall health and sustainability of southern California’s ocean and fisheries.

  • Tags:
  • BRTF
  • Marine Life Protection Act
  • South Coast

The world is blue

November 10th, 2009

Water covers 70% of our planet, and yet most of give little thought to what lies beyond our shores.  Not so for Dr. Sylvia Earle, explorer in residence at National Geographic.

Dr. Earle has been diving for 50 years, and has seen drastic changes to the health of the ocean, and abundance of sea life during that time.

She believes that marine protected areas–like the ones California is working to create through the Marine Life Protection Act–are a critical part of the solution for the world’s oceans.

On NPR Friday, she said, “If there are to be fisherman, there have to be fish. And for there to be fish, you have to protect their breeding areas, their feeding areas, the places where the little ones grow up…We’ve taken on the order of 90 percent of the tunas, the swordfish, the sharks, groupers, snappers.  There have to be some places that the fish can recover and serve as a source of renewal to places that have been so drastically depleted.”

Setting aside high quality, productive habitats as marine protected areas will help rebuild fisheries and restore ocean ecosystems.

Dr. Earle called the world’s 4,500 marine protected areas “places of hope,” but adds that only 1% of the ocean is currently protected.  To ensure the health of our blue planet, we have to do better.

  • Tags:
  • Marine Life Protection Act
  • sylvia earle
  • marine protected area
  • fisheries


Aquapolypse Now? Dr. Daniel Pauly on “the end of fish”

November 2nd, 2009

Dr. Daniel Pauly  warns that we are at the last frontier of fishing. According to his recent article in the New Republic, in the past 50 years  “we have reduced the populations of large commercial fish, such as bluefin tuna, cod, and other favorites, by a staggering 90 percent.”

Dr. Pauly appeared on NPR’s Fresh Air today to talk more about the dangers of overfishing.  In the past, fishing fleets have moved to deeper waters once they deplete a certain area, but they’re running out of ocean.  Right now, 80% of the fish we consume in the U.S. is imported, and California’s fisheries are feeling the pinch: revenues are down 50% statewide since 1990.

To reverse the damage, we have to get smart about ocean protection, and it starts with establishing science-based marine protected areas. The Marine Life Protection Act is California’s chance to rebuild fish populations and restore marine ecosystems. And we have to get it right to avert the aquapolypse Dr. Pauly warns about.

Last week Good Times Santa Cruz profiled several UC Santa Cruz professors, including Peter Raimondi, professor and chair of ecology and evolutionary biology.

Professor Raimondi serves on the Scientific Advisory Team that helps guide implementation of the Marine Life Protection Act, informing decisions about what areas should be protected to balance conservation with continued fishing access.  Since the Central Coast network of marine protected areas was established in 2007, he has also been monitoring the ocean sanctuaries to see how well they work.

He says in the article: “The MLPA project is really exciting for me not only because it has a scientific component but because it is going to leave a legacy. A legacy of these national parks in the sea.”

In November, Raimondi and his fellow biologists published a study in the scientific journal PLoS ONE which showed that marine reserves help boost fish populations outside of their boundaries, improving fishing conditions in nearby open areas.

  • Tags:
  • Marine Life Protection Act
  • science advisory team
  • pete raimondi
  • Marine Protected Areas
  • marine reserves

Scientists: Marine protected areas benefit fish and fishermen

January 7th, 2010

A new study by Christopher Costello, economist and professor with UC Santa Barbara’s Bren School of Environmental Science & Management, provides further proof that ocean protection is a win-win for the economy and environment.

Costello published an article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week explaining that, with the science available, we can conserve fish and eat them too.

Marine protected areas, when placed in the hot spots where fish and shellfish feed and breed, can help rebuild fish stocks and boost fishing industry profits.

Costello, who sits on a panel of science experts helping to guide implementation of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA), pointed to the south coast MLPA process as an example of science-based ocean protection that would benefit both sea life and people.

He said the excellent information we have about southern California’s marine life and habitats means local stakeholders can design marine protected areas that will keep coastal waters healthy and productive for the long-term and keep anglers in business.

The compromise plan for southern California’s ocean will do just that–it’s good for fish and fishermen, and leaves nearly 90% of coastal waters open for fishing.  Click here to download a map of popular fishing areas that will remain open.

  • Tags:
  • Marine Life Protection Act
  • Fishing
  • south coast MPAs
  • ipa
  • integrated preferred alternative
  • sustainable fisheries

Pitch in to protect the ocean

January 5th, 2010

The future of California’s coastal economy depends on sound management of ocean resources, and conservationists and anglers alike recognize the value of smart regulations and effective enforcement. For proof, look no further than two fledgling programs designed to support wildlife protection in California.

The new Fish and Game Warden Stamp will help fund training and equipment for wardens.  The stamps cost $5, and can be purchased online or at regional licensing offices.  Please consider supporting the state’s wildlife protection officers by buying and displaying a warden stamp.

Or, if you prefer to take a more active role, consider getting involved in a local group helping with outreach, education, and monitoring of California’s land-based and underwater parks.

On the north coast, the latest region to undergo Marine Life Protection Act
planning, local volunteers have formed a sort of “neighborhood watch for the ocean.”  Mendo Ab Watch is a group of fishermen, divers and conservationists working with the Department of Fish and Game to ensure north coast resources are managed sustainably.

The Marine Life Protection Act’s community-driven approach is bearing fruit in the North Coast, where local stakeholders have agreed to a single unified proposal for a network of marine protected areas that will stretch from Point Arena to the border with Oregon.

After a rough start, the 32-member Regional Stakeholder Group (RSG)—which includes harbormasters, surfers, sport and commercial fishermen, seaweed harvesters, tribal and business leaders and conservation representatives—has found common ground. The group agreed to protect key habitat areas like Cape Mendocino, Vizcaino, Pyramid Point, Reading Rock and South Humboldt Bay. There was also unanimous support for ensuring that traditional non-commercial tribal uses can continue.  All protected areas were designed to avoid harbors to ensure safe access to local fishing grounds.

The stakeholders have been working since February to develop a marine protected area plan that would balance ecological and economic concerns.  After over 300 hours of meetings, in addition to 20 public workshops and open houses held throughout the North Coast from Casper to Smith River, the stakeholders settled on this landmark unified plan, the first of its kind in the Marine Life Protection Act process.

While the total area protected under the plan is less than in other parts of the state (the proposal calls for 13 percent of coastal waters to be protected, versus 16 to 20 percent found in other regions, conservationists and fishing groups alike were proud of their achievement.

“Everyone talked about a unified community proposal at the beginning of the MLPA process, but I wasn’t expecting to pull it off. Sure enough though, everyone came together and we did it. It’s a great accomplishment” said Adam Wagschal, Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreational and Conservation District Conservation Director.

“The important thing is that we have a unified plan that blends conservation and consideration of the close connection most of us have with harvesting sea life—one our local communities can work together on, for the benefit of the entire region,” said Bill Lemos, consultant to NRDC.

Open houses have been scheduled in Northern California for the public to review and provide input on four draft proposals developed through the Marine Life Protection  Act (MLPA) Initiative. The open houses will focus on draft MPA proposals for the North Coast Study Region, which covers state waters from the  California/Oregon border to Alder Creek near Point Arena in Mendocino County.

Members of the public are invited to attend at any time during the day and evening sessions – in five locations throughout the study region – to visit informational stations and offer input.

Members of the MLPA North Coast Regional Stakeholder Group developed the draft MPA proposals during Round 2 of a three-round planning process. They will be on hand to answer questions and discuss how these ideas will help meet the goals of improved marine life, habitats and overall ecosystem health. MLPA Initiative staff, California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) staff, California State Parks staff and members of the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task
Force will also be available.

The five open houses are scheduled for:

Fort Bragg – Tuesday, July 6 (5:00-7:30 PM)
Briceland – Wednesday, July 7, (8:00-10:00 a.m.)
Eureka – Wednesday, July 7 (5:00-7:30 p.m.)
Orick – Thursday, July 8, 2010 (11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.)
Crescent City – Thursday, July 8, 2010 (5:00-7:30 p.m.)

If you cannot attend, you are welcome to view the proposals online and offer your comments.

  • Tags:
  • marine reserves
  • Marine Protected Areas
  • north coast

Kenyan Marine Reserves Put Money in Fishermen’s Pockets

June 17th, 2010

Yet another scientific study has been published showing the benefits of marine protected areas – both for fish and for fishers. The study, published in the journal Conservation Biology, showed that fishermen pulled more and bigger fish from waters near MPAs.

“Resistance to closures and to gear restrictions from fishermen and the fishing industry is based largely on the perception that these options are a threat to profits,” said Tim McClanahan, a senior conservationist at the US-based Wildlife Conservation Society , which conducted the study. “These findings challenge those perceptions.”

Policymakers—seeing how Kenya’s marine protected areas are breathing life into depleted fisheries—are considering adopting similar policies in countries neighboring Kenya.

This study joins the list now longer than a full-grown giant sea bass showing that carefully selected marine protected zones can pay major dividends– strengthening our resolve as we forge ahead with California’s great experiment in community-driven ocean protection, the Marine Life Protection Act.

  • Tags:
  • marine reserves
  • Marine Protected Areas
  • economic benefits
  • ocean protection
  • CalOceans

Happy Birthday, Jacques Cousteau

June 11th, 2010

June 11 marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Jacques Cousteau, the ocean explorer whose lifetime dedication to the sea has inspired millions to explore and protect the oceans.

Cousteau was not only a pioneer in exploring and photographing the ocean – he was the first to document the devastating results of overfishing, climate change and the effect of pollution on our oceans.

While his son, Jean Michel, feels that Jacques would be “heartbroken” at the state of our seas today; we are sure that he would approve of Caloceans’ dedication to protecting California’s best ocean habitats.

“People Protect What they Love”, said Cousteau, and Caloceans salues the many people that are helping to carry on Cousteau’s legacy of protecting the world’s most important resource: the ocean.

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NOAA grant will fund signage and education

June 10th, 2010

This week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced five grants totaling $188,000 to fund stewardship and improve coordination of the country’s marine protected areas.  California is one of the lucky recipients, with the federal agency footing the bill for signage and education activities for the state’s new marine protected areas between Mendocino and Santa Barbara.

The California Department of Parks and Recreation will create interpretive panels and maps to help raise awareness about the new underwater parks, and explain the goals of the Marine Life Protection Act.

  • Tags:
  • noaa
  • national oceanic atmospheric administration
  • grant
  • interpretation
  • signage
  • education

Scientists call for “National Parks at Sea”

June 8th, 2010

Today is World Oceans Day, a day we set aside to celebrate and give thanks to our life-giving oceans for all they provide for us. They feed us, transport us, and create the air we breathe. This year, the world’s marine scientists are celebrating World Oceans Day by making a unified call for large-scale “National Parks at Sea.”

Over 245 ocean scientists representing 35 countries have come out today  saying we need a worldwide MPA network – a global solution to the problem of declining ocean health around the globe. And while most MPAs around the world are small and targeted, like those selected for California’s network of underwater parks, the scientists claim we need to think bigger – as in, Yosemite big.

Large marine reserves can counter the effects of overfishing by offering a refuge for sea life to breed and spawn, providing for healthier fisheries as the fish swim into surrounding areas, and thus ensuring more resilient coastal economies.

Three cheers for the brave marine scientists, and a Happy World Oceans Day from CalOceans!

In a recent article, Lance Morgan, Vice President for Science at Marine Conservation Institute, cited a number of scientific studies, and a re-envisioned halibut derby to highlight the stark reality of overfishing off California’s coast.

As fishing technology improves along with demand for fresh seafood, new conservation measures are required to keep pace.  Since 1990, commercial fishing revenues have dropped by half and the number of fishing boats calling at California ports is down by nearly three quarters.  Fish are getting smaller as well: scientists have documented a 45% decline in size along the west coast over the past 21 years.

At Marina Del Rey, after contestants hooked just seven halibut during the two-day derby in 2009, Marina del Rey Anglers decided to implement conservation measures to save the fish.

President Bob Kissling said, “Every indication is we’re not catching them in the quantity we used to. And we don’t want to be the cause of their demise.”

Sustainable fishing, including sportfishing measures adopted by groups like Marina del Rey Anglers, is part of the answer.  Another key is protecting fish feeding and breeding grounds with a system of underwater parks, as California is doing through the Marine Life Protection Act.

Studies show that marine reserves produce more and bigger plants and animals, which tend to spill out into surrounding waters.

“Reserves allow a win–win situation — better conservation and higher profitability for fishing,” says Christopher Costello, a resource economist at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

  • Tags:
  • shifting baselines
  • marine reserves
  • fisheries benefits
  • declining catches
  • mlpa

California’s outdoor economy thriving

May 17th, 2011

In Sunday’s Los Angeles Times, reporter Hugo Martin wrote on the critical role California’s beaches, mountains and deserts play in the state’s economy. California’s vast outdoor assets are at the center of its $95-billion tourism industry, the state’s fifth-largest job creator.

At a time when the state budget crisis has necessitated widespread cuts, we’re reminded that California’s iconic natural resources – from Yosemite National Park to Santa Monica Bay – are a significant revenue source worthy of careful management. A full 25 percent of California’s coastline is protected in state parks, and the Marine Life Protection Act is working to create a network of “underwater parks” offshore to extend that stewardship from land to sea.

The LA Times article, as well as several economic studies, remind us that protecting natural areas is a smart investment for the state, and one that can pay both economic and environmental dividends:

A National Ocean Economics Program study found that tourism and recreation account for 75 percent of the jobs in California’s ocean economy, and estimates that the intrinsic value of U.S. ocean and coastal resources is more than $100 billion.

In Southern California, where a new system of marine protected areas will soon go into effect, more than 80 cents out of every dollar spent by coastal visitors is driven by tourism and recreation (and other “non-consumptive” uses).  Total spending for these activities is more than $115 million each year in the Santa Barbara and Los Angeles areas, according to a study by economists Linwood Pendleton and Chris LaFranchi.

From realtors to art galleries, many businesses will benefit from a healthier ocean, and that is why more than 130 business leaders signed a letter to the Fish and Game Commission last October urging timely implementation of the Marine Life Protection Act.  And that is why so many Californians are urging state decisionmakers to keep our State Parks open. We hope you will join CalOceans and countless other concerned citizens in advocating to keep our treasured parks in business, by taking action here.

  • Tags:
  • ocean economy
  • economic benefits of marine protected areas
  • underwater parks

MPA Digest, Volume II: Milestones

May 6th, 2011

This month, as we celebrate the first anniversary of the underwater parks that dot northern California’s coast, we’re also celebrating the efforts of the students, divers, fishermen, scientists, and surfers that helped to plan them, and are helping to ensure their long-term success.

California’s marine protected areas act as sanctuaries for marine plants and animals, but they also give visitors a chance to learn about sea life, and function like living laboratories where scientists can study the impacts of different activities on ocean systems.

Coastal residents are helping to design the state’s marine protected areas through the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) implementation process, and they continue to play a hands-on role in their management, helping to staff citizen science programs, educate the public about new rules, and keep their eyes on the water.

Right now, government and community groups are working together to gather information the state can use to assess the effectiveness of marine protected areas on the north central coast. Here are three cool collaborative efforts:

* LiMPETs teaches students to survey tidepools and beaches to
track populations of key plants and animals.

* Beach Watch volunteers count birds and mammals and record human uses all along our coast.

* This collaborative scientist/fisherman project involves a remote operated vehicle that is being flown along the seafloor to gather information about deepwater habitats.

* The MPA Monitoring Enterprise has developed a draft plan to monitor the effectiveness of the recently approved south coast marine protected areas that is now available for public review. Public comments are being accepted at mpamonitoring@calost.org through May 27. For more information, visit http://monitoringenterprise.org/where/southcoast.php . CalOceans will continue to nkeep you posted about opportunities to get involved in information gathering through southern California programs like the ones described above once they get underway.

The Laguna Blue Belt was recently recognized for their role in securing approval of the Laguna marine reserve. Mayor Toni Iseman congratulated the group on their consistent presence at local and state hearings, and the city council recently recognized the impact grassroots efforts can have in planning and stewardship of marine protected areas.

  • Tags:
  • MPA digest
  • mpa monitoring
  • stewardship

Happy anniversary to the north central coast MPAs!

May 1st, 2011

A year ago today, California created a system of undersea parks that dots the coast between Pigeon Point in San Mateo County and Alder Creek near Mendocino.  This network of protections includes coastal and offshore treasures like Pt. Reyes, Bodega Head, and the Farallon Islands.  The Marine Life Protection Act also resulted in increased protections for beloved tidepool destination Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, where students, tourists and locals flock at low tides to see and learn about northern California’s intertidal sea life.

Marine protected areas act like sanctuaries for ocean plants and animals, which have been shown to grow and multiply in the preserves, re-seeding surrounding waters and increased diversity and resilience. But they are also designed to enhance recreation, education, and research opportunities.  And if Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, recently featured on KQED’s Quest, is any indication, California is on the right track.

Happy anniversary to the north central coast marine protected areas, and our thanks to all of the divers, kayakers, fishermen, scientists, and conservationists that helped to shape this system of protections!

The Marine Life Protection Act’s community-driven approach is bearing fruit in the North Coast, where local stakeholders have agreed to a single unified proposal for a network of marine protected areas that will stretch from Point Arena to the border with Oregon.

After a rough start, the 32-member Regional Stakeholder Group (RSG)—which includes harbormasters, surfers, sport and commercial fishermen, seaweed harvesters, tribal and business leaders and conservation representatives—has found common ground. The group agreed to protect key habitat areas like Cape Mendocino, Vizcaino, Pyramid Point, Reading Rock and South Humboldt Bay. There was also unanimous support for ensuring that traditional non-commercial tribal uses can continue.  All protected areas were designed to avoid harbors to ensure safe access to local fishing grounds.

The stakeholders have been working since February to develop a marine protected area plan that would balance ecological and economic concerns.  After over 300 hours of meetings, in addition to 20 public workshops and open houses held throughout the North Coast from Casper to Smith River, the stakeholders settled on this landmark unified plan, the first of its kind in the Marine Life Protection Act process.

While the total area protected under the plan is less than in other parts of the state (the proposal calls for 13 percent of coastal waters to be protected, versus 16 to 20 percent found in other regions, conservationists and fishing groups alike were proud of their achievement.

“Everyone talked about a unified community proposal at the beginning of the MLPA process, but I wasn’t expecting to pull it off. Sure enough though, everyone came together and we did it. It’s a great accomplishment” said Adam Wagschal, Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreational and Conservation District Conservation Director.

“The important thing is that we have a unified plan that blends conservation and consideration of the close connection most of us have with harvesting sea life—one our local communities can work together on, for the benefit of the entire region,” said Bill Lemos, consultant to NRDC.