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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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