Showing all articles published in June 2011.
Yesterday was a landmark day for ocean conservation in California, as the Fish and Game Commission took two important steps forward on implementation of the Marine Life Protection Act. This progress comes at a critical time; recent reports from the United Nations and NOAA highlight the urgent need for ocean habitat protection, and the benefits of marine protected area networks like the one California is working to create.
Southern California update: New protections go into effect on October 1, 2011
The Fish and Game Commission voted four to one in favor of an October 1, 2011 implementation date for the southern California marine protected areas approved last December. The network was designed to protect sea life and habitats at iconic coastal areas like south La Jolla, Laguna and Point Dume while leaving nearly 90 percent of the coast open for fishing. The new protected areas will improve access for recreation, study and education while boosting the overall health of California’s ocean. Local nonprofits, aquaria, and community groups are already hard at work preparing education, outreach, and monitoring programs to complement state enforcement efforts.
Scripps scientist Ed Parnell was quoted on KPBS describing the anticipated benefits:
"The reserves were designed so that you could protect a certain breeding stock of animals within this area that's supposed to be off limits," said Parnell. "And it's a win-win for the ecosystem in terms of the productive potential of these different species."
Ocean Conservancy’s Kaitilin Gaffney emphasized the move’s importance for coastal communities in the San Diego Union-Tribune:
“Southern California’s quality of life — and many of its jobs and businesses — rely on our coast and ocean. These protections cannot come soon enough.”
North Coast update: Plan to protect ocean habitat and traditional tribal gathering moves forward
Also at the Fish and Game Commission meeting, Resources Secretary Laird unveiled a plan to support both continued traditional tribal gathering and improved ocean protection on California’s north coast, earning the approval of tribal leaders, elected officials, and conservationists.
In a press release Laird stated:
“We have devised a pathway to begin the process to allow tribes on the North Coast to continue ancestral fishing practices in many of the areas most important to them. This is an extremely important decision to move the Marine Life Protection Act forward and to show respect for the sovereign tribal nations… [We] hope this provides a framework for future efforts on important conservation and environmental issues.”
The Sacramento Bee said of the move:
“Though not yet final, it indicates a major shift in state policy toward coastal protection.”
Everyone involved in the Marine Life Protection Act planning process on the north coast has been unanimous on the importance of respecting traditional tribal cultural practices. The unified community plan put forth by local stakeholders was designed to avoid favored gathering grounds (as well as local harbors, to minimize impacts on both tribes and fishing fleets).
Ocean Conservancy’s Jennifer Savage said in the Eureka Times-Standardthat the commission’s decision underscored the success of the compromises made by all stakeholders, including the tribes:
”Thanks to the willingness of tribal representatives to continue working with the state and Secretary Laird's tireless dedication to finding a solution, we're able to move toward better ocean protection while maintaining respect for traditional tribal gathering. It's another amazing achievement unique to the North Coast MLPA process.”
The community plan, along with Secretary Laird’s tribal gathering provision, will now undergo environmental analysis, with a final decision expected in early 2012.
Several reports released this week underscored the urgency of ocean protection efforts like California’s Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA). Scientists warn that climate change, overfishing, habitat loss and acidification are driving marine systems to the brink, and cited marine protected areas as a critical part of the solution to buffer against growing pressures and allow nature to rebound.
On June 20, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)published a study that concluded the state of our oceans is more dire than previously thought and warned “this is a very serious situation demanding unequivocal action at every level. We are looking at consequences for humankind that will impact in our lifetime.”
A story in the San Francisco Chronicle noted, “damage to marine life would harm its ability to support humans.”
While the findings are grim, the IUCN report does offer concrete steps we can take to reverse the downward trend in ocean health. The report summary specifically calls for the need to…
“establish a globally comprehensive and representative system of marine protected areas to conserve biodiversity, to build resilience, and to ensure ecologically sustainable fisheries with minimal ecological footprint.”
Also this week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released a reportthat called for more marine reserves and protected areas in U.S. waters, particularly in coastal areas. It noted their value both for wildlife and for people:
“establishing a marine reserve not only protects and helps to restore the habitats and populations of organisms within the reserve, it can also support and enhance the habitats and populations throughout a region. This in turn supports human communities by protecting places and resources valued by people for their intrinsic and economic values.“
Finally, a study published in Nature on June 22 underscored the worldwide importance of the California Current, likened to the Serengeti, for the survival of top ocean predators like sharks, sea turtles and tunas. The study emphasized the value of protecting habitat “hot spots.” One of the authors was quoted in the San Diego Union Tribune calling for an ecosystem based management system (like a network of marine protected areas).
The message for California is clear: global scientific consensus supports the need for timely implementation of the MLPA. A statewide system of marine protected areas will function like an insurance policy against environmental changes, boosting resilience, enhancing our understanding of marine systems, and safeguarding vital resources.
On June 29, the California Fish and Game Commission will meet to discuss the timeline for implementation of the southern California protected areas approved last December, and to review marine protected areas proposed for the far north coast.
Reached via email, Dr. Mark Ohman of Scripps Institution of Oceanography, said, “It is in both the short and long term interests of the state of California to implement the MLPA plan sooner rather than later.”
With so many jobs and businesses depending on the productivity of our ocean, it’s clear that ocean protection must remain a top priority for our state, with completion of the statewide network of protections called for in the MLPA as job number one.
An outing to the California coast can be a lot of things – fun, beautiful, relaxing, rejuvenating – even awe-inspiring—but on June 25th, it’ll be something else: empowering. That’s because it’s time for the second annual Hands Across the Sand event, when people peacefully hold hands across the sand to oppose offshore drilling and call for clean energy solutions.
It will be tough to match the turnout from last year, which was boosted by occurring mere months after the Deep Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico: over 1,000 Hands Across the Sand events took place around the world, from as far away as Australia and Africa and as close as Santa Monica. We hope you’ll be at the beach on the 25th – click here to find a Hands Across the Sand event near you. California has events from as far north as Westhaven and as far south as Pacific Beach (here’s a video of last year’s Oceanside event.) You can even organize your own event if there isn’t one nearby!
Participating in Hands Across the Sand is a great way to show your solidarity with others passionate about the ocean. It’s a powerful example of how grassroots efforts can bring a critical issue into the public consciousness. We know we’ll need to employ a variety of tools in meeting the challenge of creating a healthy, resilient ocean. In addition to creating more marine protected areas, we need to address pollution issues and safeguard our seas against irresponsible energy development. Hear more on this Southern California Public Radio story.
June was just declared National Oceans Month, and, of course, June 8 is World Oceans Day. As the weather heats up and our thoughts turn to the coast, it’s a great time to celebrate the Big Blue and all it provides, from food and fun to fresh air and jobs. It’s also a time to take stock of ocean protection efforts and give a little something back.
Around the world, people are recognizing the importance of ocean protection for our own wellbeing, and a number of recent conferences have brought great minds together to discuss the best ways to keep our blue planet thriving:
• The 2nd International Marine Conservation Congress (IMCC) in Vancouver focused on the worldwide advances being made towards adopting marine protected areas, including the work taking place in California through the Marine Life Protection Act.
• The 3rd annual Blue Vision Summit in Washington, DC looked at opportunities to coordinate action on ocean protection.
• The Blue Mind Symposium in San Francisco examined the connection between oceans and the human mind, looking for ways to tap our collective brainpower to advance stewardship efforts.
Marine Life Protection Act Update
Here in California, work continues to build a system of marine protected areas, or ocean parks, that will keep special places like South Cape Mendocino, Bodega Head, Point Lobos, and South La Jolla healthy and resilient, from land to sea.
The south coast parks, approved last December, will go into effect this fall. We’ll let you know when the official opening date is announced, but you can learn more or get involved now by joining an MPA Watch program in Malibu or Santa Barbara, or stay tuned for news of similar programs starting up on your stretch of the coast.
Work continues to plan protections for California’s far north coast, with the community’s landmark unified plan currently under review by the California Fish and Game Commission.
The central part of our coast is already dotted with undersea parks, which scientists are currently studying to monitor the recovery of local sea life, and uses by visitors and residents. To learn more about California’s existing marine protected areas, check out www.californiaMPAs.org,
On this World Ocean Day, CalOceans thanks you for supporting our ongoing efforts to create a statewide network of marine reserves on the California coast.
Wondering what you can do to make the Ocean a better place? The good folks over at National Geographic have a few suggestions:
1. Mind Your Carbon Footprint and Reduce Energy Consumption
Reduce the effects of climate change on the ocean by leaving the car at home when you can and being conscious of your energy use at home and work. A few things you can do to get started today: Switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs, take the stairs, and bundle up or use a fan to avoid over setting your thermostat.
2. Make Safe, Sustainable Seafood Choices
Global fish populations are rapidly being depleted due to demand, loss of habitat, and unsustainable fishing practices. When shopping or dining out, help reduce the demand for overexploited species by choosing seafood that is both healthful and sustainable.
3. Use Fewer Plastic Products
Plastics that end up as ocean debris contribute to habitat destruction and entangle and kill tens of thousands of marine animals each year. To limit your impact, carry a reusable water bottle, store food in nondisposable containers, bring your own cloth tote or other reusable bag when shopping, and recycle whenever possible.
4. Help Take Care of the Beach
Whether you enjoy diving, surfing, or relaxing on the beach, always clean up after yourself. Explore and appreciate the ocean without interfering with wildlife or removing rocks and coral. Go even further by encouraging others to respect the marine environment or by participating in local beach cleanups.
5. Don't Purchase Items That Exploit Marine Life
Certain products contribute to the harming of fragile coral reefs and marine populations. Avoid purchasing items such as coral jewelry, tortoiseshell hair accessories (made from hawksbill turtles), and shark products.
6. Be an Ocean-Friendly Pet Owner
Read pet food labels and consider seafood sustainability when choosing a diet for your pet. Never flush cat litter, which can contain pathogens harmful to marine life. Avoid stocking your aquarium with wild-caught saltwater fish, and never release any aquarium fish into the ocean or other bodies of water, a practice that can introduce non-native species harmful to the existing ecosystem.
7. Support Organizations Working to Protect the Ocean
Many institutes and organizations are fighting to protect ocean habitats and marine wildlife. Find a national organization and consider giving financial support or volunteering for hands-on work or advocacy. If you live near the coast, join up with a local branch or group and get involved in projects close to home.
8. Influence Change in Your Community
Research the ocean policies of public officials before you vote or contact your local representatives to let them know you support marine conservation projects. Consider patronizing restaurants and grocery stores that offer only sustainable seafood, and speak up about your concerns if you spot a threatened species on the menu or at the seafood counter.
9. Travel the Ocean Responsibly
Practice responsible boating, kayaking, and other recreational activities on the water. Never throw anything overboard, and be aware of marine life in the waters around you. If you’re set on taking a cruise for your next vacation, do some research to find the most eco-friendly option.
10. Educate Yourself About Oceans and Marine Life
All life on Earth is connected to the ocean and its inhabitants. The more you learn about the issues facing this vital system, the more you’ll want to help ensure its health—then share that knowledge to educate and inspire others.
One of the coolest things about California's ocean protection planning, through the Marine Life Protection Act, has been the public involvement. Our state's new underwater parks are being mapped out by local residents, one section of the coast at a time. With so many people relying on the ocean for work and play, there are a lot of different viewpoints. But everyone shares a commitment to improving ocean health, and nowhere has this been more apparent than on the north coast, where community stakeholders came together to propose a single unified plan supported by government officials, fishing groups, and conservationists.
The north coast unified proposal would protect iconic places like Ten-Mile Beach, south Cape Mendocino, and Pyramid Point while leaving all north coast harbors open, and allowing ongoing traditional tribal harvest. It is a balanced solution that considers the circumstances unique to that region.
The unified plan won approval from the Governor's MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force, and is currently under consideration by the California Fish and Game Commission.
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