The California Fish and Game Commission held their meeting of the year on the Marine Life Protection Act in Ontario this week. They heard over four hours of public testimony from seventy-five south coast residents, each weighing in on marine protected area plans for the south coast.
Many surfers, scientists, divers, and conservationists lobbied for stronger protections for iconic ocean areas like Rocky Point and south La Jolla, but the commission voted 3-2 to maintain the compromise plan known as the “Integrated Preferred Alternative” as their proposed project.
The compromise plan draws from three stakeholder proposals developed over a year of study and negotiations among different interest groups. It would protect beloved ocean areas like Naples Reef, Dume underwater canyon, Laguna, and Swamis Reef while leaving the vast majority of the coast, including most of the region’s most popular fishing grounds, open for fishing.
“We applaud the Commission’s decision move forward with this vital ocean protection effort,” said Greg Helms of the Ocean Conservancy. “New research unveiled at last month’s American Association for the Advancement of Science conference shows that well-designed marine protected areas provide both economic and environmental benefits. With so many southern California businesses depending on the health and productivity of our coastal waters, we can’t afford to delay protection.”
The Commission’s decision indicates initial support for the compromise plan, but a range of options will be analyzed in environmental review, including proposals developed by conservationists and fishermen. There will be further opportunities for public input at Commission hearings over the coming months, with a final decision expected later this year
“The compromise plan is a step in the right direction, but there is still room for improvement,” said Marcela Gutierrez of WildCoast. “By strengthening the protections around Palos Verdes and south La Jolla, we can better meet the science and increase benefits for fish and fishermen.”
For more information on the Marine Life Protection Act, visit www.caloceans.org, or www.dfg.ca.gov/mlpa.
Several new studies released at this week's American Association for the Advancement of Sciences conference have found that well-designed networks of marine reserves can provide both economic and environmental benefits.
Scientists from UC Santa Barbara, Scripps Institute and Stanford University were quoted over the weekend:
Steven Gaines, Dean of the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management at UC Santa Barbara said in Science Daily, "There is plenty of new evidence to show that if reserves are designed well, they can benefit both fish and fishermen,"
UC Santa Barbara’s Andrew Rassweiler said in Science News that a new southern California marine reserve network could boost fishing industry profits: “People fishing can make more money with smaller impacts on the species being fished.”
Science Magazine cited the Channel Islands and Great Barrier Reef marine reserve networks to show that protecting small areas can produce big returns. A five-year study in the Channel Island found rockfish numbers up by 50%, and their size up by 80%. And predictions of economic losses from the Great Barrier Reef protections have proven completely unfounded--the number of recreational fishing licenses has gone up since the reserves there were created.
Several of the studies emphasized the importance of community engagement in creating an effective marine reserve network. California’s Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) is being implemented through a participatory public process. Stanford scientist Stephen Palumbi said in the San Diego Union Tribune that the MLPA is also rooted in sound science: “There are probably 120 to 150 studies of how reserves function within their borders, and even small reserves tend to give positive results.”
Scripps Institution of Oceanography’s Ed Parnell, who has proposed protections for the reef and kelp beds at south La Jolla, said: “We know what the benefit will be for the species in the reserves. They will increase in density, and they will increase in size.”
This fact sheet summarizes the new marine reserves research.
This weekend, the country’s foremost ocean experts will meet in San Diego to review the latest science on marine reserves. Ocean management is one of the key topics at this year’s American Association for the Advancement of
Sciences conference, and is also the theme of February’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences issue.
California has many long-established marine reserves, and is working now to create a science-based network through the Marine Life Protection Act.
Scientists from Scripps Institution of Oceanography have studied reserves at La Jolla and in the Channel Islands, noting increases in the size and numbers of sheephead, abalone, and kelp bass.
The expanded protections proposed through the MLPA for key areas like south La Jolla, Swamis Reef, Point Dume, and Catalina would build on that success, helping to boost southern California’s overall ocean health.
In today’s San Diego Union Tribune, Stanford’s Steve Palumbi said California’s marine reserves will benefit anglers by boosting the size and abundance of fish in nearby open areas.
Fisheries scientist Ray Hilborn said increased abundance inside protected areas is good for tourism and for researchers.
Scripps’ Ed Parnell said that, while the design process is complex, we know that Caifornia’s new reserves will produce increases in the density and size of fish and invertebrates.
Last week CNN aired a fascinating segment on Apo Island, a tiny fishing-based community in the South Pacific islands of the Philippines. The CNN website has a page dedicated to the story, with a slideshow of striking images of the island and its people.
Years of overfishing and habitat destruction (the island is adjacent to an ecologically important coral reef, which was severely damaged) had left the waters around Apo Isand in terrible shape. Fishermen were being forced further and further out to sea in order to bring home fish, and the local economy was following the sea life’s downward spiral.
Scientists at neighboring Silliman University in Dumaguete spearheaded an effort to reverse the island's fortunes by setting up a marine reserve around the reef. Over the years, the reef and sea life recovered, and the spillover into the unprotected waters boosted fishing returns. The local economy has been steadily improving as well.
This is further evidence that we need to stay the course in California, and implement a network of science-based marine protected areas. It is the right thing to do for Californians, our ocean and the sea life that lives there.
As the north coast Marine Life Protection Act planning process ramps up, many area residents are thinking about their local ocean--and the plants and animals that live there--in a whole new way.
Marine protected areas work because, like underwater parks, they protect the whole web of undersea life. The web of life off northern California's coastline includes kelp, krill, fish, invertebrates, even birds. They're all connected.
In order to help the community understand what's at stake with the Marine Life Protection Act, COMPASS and California Ocean Science Trust are hosting a series of ocean science lectures, starting with a presentation by Dr. Karina Nielson called "What is an ocean ecosystem?"
The February 9 seminar will be held in Fort Bragg:
Who: Dr. Karina Nielsen, Sonoma State University
When: February 9, 2010
Time: 7:00 - 8:30pm
Where: St. Michael’s Episcopal Church Larsen Hall
Corner of Fir and Franklin, Fort Bragg
On February 10, Dr. Nielson will be in Bayside:
Who: Dr. Karina Nielsen, Sonoma State University
When: February 10, 2010
Time: 7:00 - 8:30pm
Where: Humboldt Area Foundation Conference Center
373 Indianola Road, Bayside
After several months of public outreach and education, the north coast Regional Stakeholder Group process--where local leaders representing a variety of industries and interests will work together to map out a network of marine protected areas that will extend from Point Arena to Oregin--is ready to begin.
The north coast Regional Stakeholder Group (RSG) includes members of the conservation, fishing, business, tribal, science, and education communities. Many of them worked together in the Tri-County Working Group to find common ground ahead of the RSG process.
The first north coast RSG meeting will be held at the Red Lion Hotel in Eureka on February 8 and 9. Click here for information about all upcoming MLPA meetings on the north coast.
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.
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.
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 planning meetings have come and gone. The Blue Ribbon Task Force, Regional Stakeholder Group, Science Advisory Teamand general public have all had their say. Now the future of southern California’s coastal waters sits with the Fish and Game Commission, which met December 9, to gather input from the community and MLPA advisors before sending off four marine protected area plans for further economic and scientific analysis.
South coast residents can still weigh in via mail or email, and will have additional opportunities to comment in person when the Commission returns to southern California for three more meetings in 2010.
Although the Commission has adopted the BRTF’s Integrated Preferred Alternative as the “proposed project,” all four of the current proposals for marine protected areas on the south coast remain on the table.
So what does that mean? It means now is the time to remind the Fish and Game Commission that science should guide our state’s resource management decisions. And the conservation plan—also known as Proposal 3—is the only one that meets science guidelines and protects all southern California’s iconic ocean places, like Naples Reef, Point Dume, Palos Verdes, Laguna, Catalina Island and La Jolla. At the December 9 meeting, Dr. Steve Murray of the Science Advisory Team confirmed that Proposal 3 would produce the greatest ecosystem benefits.
Please send an email or note to the Commissioners voicing your support for Proposal 3.
Marine Life Protection Act Initiative
c/o California Natural Resources Agency
1416 Ninth Street, Suite 1311
Sacramento, CA 95814
Tell them to adopt a plan that will serve the region’s economy and environment. We only get one shot at this and we need to get it right!
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