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!
Carl Safina and Sylvia Earle are no strangers to the benefits of marine protected areas. Dr. Earle won the TED prize for her work to protect the planet's "blue heart," and her goal is to see a worldwide network of marine protected areas to keep the world's oceans healthy and sustainable.
Both ocean experts worry about the effects of climate change, overfishing, pollution, and habitat destruction on sea life. And now, Safina and Earle are calling for a bailout plan for the ocean. At a recent event, they had conservationists repeat, "the oceans are too big to fail."
That's certainly true in California. The coast and ocean are our most iconic attraction. According to the National Ocean Economics Program 2009 report, they drive $22 billion dollars in revenue and 350,000 jobs each year. And the lion's share of that--three quarters of the revenue, and over half the jobs--come from tourism and recreation.
In order to keep those industries thriving, we have to protect the iconic ocean places and wildlife people come to enjoy. If our oceans are too big to fail, then the Marine Life Protection Act is a wise investment indeed for California.
In San Francisco you expect it to be fairly easy to find locally harvested seafood: this is where the term “locavore” came from, after all, and the Bay Area, like the rest of California, is historically famous for its abundance and diversity of seafood.
According to the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, we’ve seen a 71 percent drop in commercial fishing revenue along the north-central California coast since 1990.
We’re seeing the same steady declines in fishery productivity across the country, with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reporting last year that more than three-fourths of the fish Americans eat comes from other countries.
But the ongoing Marine Life Protection Act process in California gives hope to those who yearn for a return to abundance. In August the Fish and Game Commission voted to create a network of underwater parks from Point Arena to Pigeon Point, resulting in 155 square miles of protected ocean to support the recovery of damaged fish stocks like rock fish and abalone.
With a similar network already adopted for the Central Coast and the wheels in motion for creating protections for the North and South regions, California is poised to set the gold standard for ocean protection.
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