One of the amazing things about California’s coastline is how diverse it is. The central part of the coast bears almost no resemblance to the southern portion, both with their own stunning array of sea life and habitat types, from rocky reefs to kelp forests and pillars.
The north coast of California is similarly unique—and this region has been subject to far less human interference, leaving its fisheries relatively healthy compared to their southern counterparts (you can, for example, still harvest abalone on the north coast, in limited quantities). It is a region with a rich history of living with and off the sea, and through the MLPA, we have a great chance to keep its traditional commercial, recreational and subsistence fishing practices alive and well.
This op-ed in the Eureka Times-Standard by former Assemblywoman and Sonoma resident Virginia Strom-Martin, who sits on the MLPA’s Blue Ribbon Task Force, tells the story of the north coast’s efforts to create a holistic plan for ocean conservation, calling it the most open and transparent process she’s ever been involved in.
Last week, north coast residents had a chance to learn and ask questions about the ongoing marine protected area selection process at a series of Open Houses throughout the region. Now the regional stakeholders will gather to reach a consensus on a final network of MPAs to present to the Fish and Game Commission later this year.
As Strom-Martin says, “It is only by working together that we can ensure a healthy ocean and successfully teach future generations to be good stewards for our precious community assets.” Hear-hear, and kudos to all the north coasters working to create a legacy of ocean health for their part of California.
Open houses have been scheduled in Northern California for the public to review and provide input on four draft proposals developed through the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative. The open houses will focus on draft MPA proposals for the North Coast Study Region, which covers state waters from the California/Oregon border to Alder Creek near Point Arena in Mendocino County.
Members of the public are invited to attend at any time during the day and evening sessions – in five locations throughout the study region – to visit informational stations and offer input.
Members of the MLPA North Coast Regional Stakeholder Group developed the draft MPA proposals during Round 2 of a three-round planning process. They will be on hand to answer questions and discuss how these ideas will help meet the goals of improved marine life, habitats and overall ecosystem health. MLPA Initiative staff, California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) staff, California State Parks staff and members of the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task
Force will also be available.
The five open houses are scheduled for:
Fort Bragg - Tuesday, July 6 (5:00-7:30 PM)
Briceland - Wednesday, July 7, (8:00-10:00 a.m.)
Eureka - Wednesday, July 7 (5:00-7:30 p.m.)
Orick - Thursday, July 8, 2010 (11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.)
Crescent City - Thursday, July 8, 2010 (5:00-7:30 p.m.)
Yet another scientific study has been published showing the benefits of marine protected areas – both for fish and for fishers. The study, published in the journal Conservation Biology, showed that fishermen pulled more and bigger fish from waters near MPAs.
"Resistance to closures and to gear restrictions from fishermen and the fishing industry is based largely on the perception that these options are a threat to profits," said Tim McClanahan, a senior conservationist at the US-based Wildlife Conservation Society , which conducted the study. "These findings challenge those perceptions."
Policymakers—seeing how Kenya's marine protected areas are breathing life into depleted fisheries—are considering adopting similar policies in countries neighboring Kenya.
This study joins the list now longer than a full-grown giant sea bass showing that carefully selected marine protected zones can pay major dividends– strengthening our resolve as we forge ahead with California’s great experiment in community-driven ocean protection, the Marine Life Protection Act.
June 11 marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Jacques Cousteau, the ocean explorer whose lifetime dedication to the sea has inspired millions to explore and protect the oceans.
Cousteau was not only a pioneer in exploring and photographing the ocean - he was the first to document the devastating results of overfishing, climate change and the effect of pollution on our oceans.
While his son, Jean Michel, feels that Jacques would be "heartbroken" at the state of our seas today; we are sure that he would approve of Caloceans' dedication to protecting California's best ocean habitats.
"People Protect What they Love", said Cousteau, and Caloceans salues the many people that are helping to carry on Cousteau's legacy of protecting the world's most important resource: the ocean.
This week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced five grants totaling $188,000 to fund stewardship and improve coordination of the country’s marine protected areas. California is one of the lucky recipients, with the federal agency footing the bill for signage and education activities for the state's new marine protected areas between Mendocino and Santa Barbara.
The California Department of Parks and Recreation will create interpretive panels and maps to help raise awareness about the new underwater parks, and explain the goals of the Marine Life Protection Act.
Today is World Oceans Day, a day we set aside to celebrate and give thanks to our life-giving oceans for all they provide for us. They feed us, transport us, and create the air we breathe. This year, the world’s marine scientists are celebrating World Oceans Day by making a unified call for large-scale “National Parks at Sea.”
Over 245 ocean scientists representing 35 countries have come out today saying we need a worldwide MPA network – a global solution to the problem of declining ocean health around the globe. And while most MPAs around the world are small and targeted, like those selected for California’s network of underwater parks, the scientists claim we need to think bigger – as in, Yosemite big.
Large marine reserves can counter the effects of overfishing by offering a refuge for sea life to breed and spawn, providing for healthier fisheries as the fish swim into surrounding areas, and thus ensuring more resilient coastal economies.
Three cheers for the brave marine scientists, and a Happy World Oceans Day from CalOceans!
And what will it mean for the people and industries that rely on this natural resource? These questions are on the minds of scientists, policymakers, and coastal residents that use the ocean for work and play. To learn all about it from some of northern California's ocean experts, attend a seminar sponsored by COMPASS and California Ocean Science Trust:
Who: Dr. Jonathon Stillman, Professor, San Francisco State University, and Dr. Amber Mace, Executive Director, CA Ocean Protection Council
Where: Humboldt Bay Aquatics Center, 921 Waterfront Drive, Eureka
St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, Larsen Hall, Corner of Franklin and Fir, Fort Bragg
It’s all about finding that balance, as Humboldt Baykeeper’s Pete Nichols notes, between the immediate demands of our fishing economy and the long-term goal of a healthy California ocean. Somewhere in the midst of all the Marine Life Protection Act meetings and proposals lies the “just right” compromise.
This recent article from the Eureka Times-Standard reminds us to keep the Big Picture goal of a marine protected area network that works for the whole North Coast in mind – and what better way to regain that perspective than to take in the coast from 1,000 feet? You can literally see it all.
LightHawk, a nonprofit organization that operates under the slogan of “championing environmental protection through the unique perspective of flight,” provided the aerial tour with the help of The Ocean Conservancy and Humboldt Baykeeper. Lighthawk hopes to offer several more tours to different interest groups and decision-makers as the North Coast process moves ahead.
Saturday's flights included members of the media, a member of the science advisory team and a member of the regional stakeholders group, who were toured around by volunteer LightHawk pilots Lew Nash and Mike Sutton.
Marine Ecologist Enric Sala (a National Geographic Explorer and Scripps Institution of Oceanography Professor) explains that the "economy versus environment"frame for ocean protection is a false choice. We can have more fish and catch them too with well-designed marine protected areas and reserves.
Sala says that marine preserves can increase the quality of fishermen's catches in the near term, increase their long-term job security, and boost tourism and recreation. As Sala puts it, a marine reserve is a savings account and you have to keep up a principle balance in order to maintain an income from it.
Additionally, marine reserves actually create jobs, and for just a fraction of the cost of what we're currently spending on unsustainable fishing subsidies.
This recent New York Times article higlights Glover's Reef, the latest example of how marine reserves succeed at restoring the health of depleted ocean habitat. Belize’s largest “no-take” marine reserve, a 17,500-acre zone where all types of fishing are prohibited, has done wonders for the local reef habitat and the fish populations have increased significantly.
The area is known as Glover’s Reef, and the Times article features the research conducted by the Wildlife Conservation Society on the local sharks and rays – which has revealed that sharks play a critical role in the ecosystem. Check out a video here.
According to Ellen K. Pikitch, a marine biologist at the Stony Brook University School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences and runs the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science:
“I think Glover’s Reef is a model of hope. The effort at Glover’s shows that marine reserves, even small marine reserves, can work. I think it’s very transportable this concept.”
Along with other top predators, sharks help keep barracuda populations in check, which is important because barracuda consume algae grazers like parrotfish that prevent runaway algae growth from choking the corals.
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