When it comes to natural resource management, we often talk about our responsibility to future generations. But rarely do those generations take an active role in decision-making.
Enter the 20 students of Mendocino High’s School of Natural Resources (SONAR), who are engaging in the Marine Life Protection Act implementation process to ensure the resulting ocean protection plan truly serves their interests.
These kids are part of a grant-funded “school within a school,” and they’re developing their own North Coast marine protected area plan to submit to the Fish and Game Commission in February, where it will be considered alongside a county-led proposal prepared by fishermen, scientists, and environmental groups.
The students are following science guidelines, gathering input from ocean users and attending town hall and regional stakeholder meetings.
They bring a refreshingly apolitical perspective to this issue. And, if their past science work is any indication, we can expect their MPA proposal to be both credible and reasonable: The Department of Fish and Game uses salmon data the class collected for the Little North Fork of Big River, and they are considering a formal submission to a scientific journal on a new colony of fairy shrimp they discovered in a vernal pool.
The class has set up a group email through which you can contact them. Read more about their plans in today’s Mendocino Beacon.
Ocean Beach resident Mike Laude has been diving and fishing southern California's waters for three decades. He remembers swimming from Windansea to Bird Rock, "gawking at halibut, lobsters, abalone, moray eels, starfish, urchins, garibaldi, schools of sargo, barracuda, opal eye, and bait fish."
Like many south coast watermen, Laude enjoys watching sea life, and hunting for his dinner amid the kelp forests and rocky reefs. In a December 4 North County Times op-ed he writes about catching lobsters nearly as old as he was, and watching abalone numbers dwindle.
Richard Holt, who serves on the Advisory Council for the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, has been fishing and diving south coast waters even longer than Laude. The picture above is from his website, showing a typical day's catch at Palos Verdes from the 1950's (all caught without SCUBA gear.)
Fish and shellfish are getting smaller and fewer each year, and habitat protection is a key part of the solution. Mike Laude has followed Marine Life Protection Act process, and come out in support of the compromise plan for southern California.
Many other divers and anglers, along with scientists, conservationists, and educators are expected to attend a December 9 Marine Life Protection Act meeting in Los Angeles to voice their support for a strong marine protected area plan. The future bounty of our ocean is at stake.
The compromise marine protected area plan for southern California recommended by the Blue Ribbon Task Force was designed to balance fishing access with conservation. It includes protection for key feeding and breeding grounds like Naples Reef, Point Dume, Laguna, and south La Jolla, while leaving nearly 90% of south coast waters open for fishing.
The compromise plan (also known as the Integrated Preferred Alternative, or IPA) will not effect pier anglers at all, and will allow ongoing commercial and recreational fishing in popular spots like:
- Ellwood and Carpinteria Reefs in Santa Barbara County
- The entire coast of central and southern Ventura County
- Kelp beds in northern Los Angeles County
- Central Malibu and the Santa Monica Bay, including the eastern half of Big Kelp Reef
- The waters north of the Palos Verdes peninsula (including Rocky Point)
- All of Orange County, except Laguna
- North San Diego County, including the Oceanside Pier and Solana Beach kelp beds
- Northern La Jolla and Point Loma
- Most of Catalina Island
Click here to download a complete list (and map) of fishing areas left open under the BRTF's compromise plan.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Join Audubon and other conservation groups in supporting a strong marine protected area plan for southern California.
Oceanographer Sylvia Earle has logged more than 6500 hours underwater during her 50 years exploring the world's oceans. She has seen many changes to plant and animal life over the years, and feels the ocean is now at a tipping point. The good news, she says, is that we still have a chance to "tip things back in the right direction--if we act now."
The Marine Life Protection Act is our opportunity to create a sea change that will restore depleted sea life and habitats throughout California's coastal waters. If we follow the science and create a strong, science-based marine protected area network, we can turn things around and leave a legacy of healthy oceans for our kids and grandkids.
In this Los Angeles Times opinion editorial, Sylvia explains why the conservation plan--or "Proposal 3"--is the best choice for southern California's ocean. It will protect iconic places like south La Jolla, Naples Reef, Point Dume, and Laguna while leaving nearly 90% of the area open for fishing.
The Los Angeles Times editorial board agrees--they too urge the Marine Life Protection Act Blue Ribbon Task Force to recommend Proposal 3 to ensure south coast waters remain healthy and productive for generations to come.
Dr. Earle likens marine protected areas to jewels on a necklace: treasured areas where kelp flourishes, fish and invertebrates grow and multiply, and divers, snorkelers, and scientists can glimpse marine life at its healthiest.
Join the Los Angeles Times, along with southern California divers, surfers, educators, conservationists, scientists, and kayakers in supporting meaningful protection for our special ocean places.
The south coast Marine Life Protection Act process is nearly complete, but we need your help to ensure the ocean protection plan adopted by California really works for our region.
Local stakeholders worked for over a year to map out a network of marine protected areas that will keep special places like Naples Reef, Point Dume, and La Jolla healthy for future generations. There are three plans on the table now, and the conservation plan will give us the most bang for the buck.
If you dive, surf, swim, tide pool, kayak, or just love to eat sustainable local seafood, you have a stake in this effort. The future of our coastal ocean hangs in the balance, and we have to get this right.
A strong marine protected area plan will do for our ocean what state parks have done for our most treasured landscapes—preserve their unique beauty so that everyone can experience nature at its best…now, and 100 years from now.
Policy advisors on the Blue Ribbon Task Force will finish reviewing the three plans on November 10, and identify the best choice for our area. Please consider sending them a letter to support a strong, science-based ocean protection plan like the one proposed by conservationists.
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