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    MPA Process Moves to Southern California

    Channel_islands_national_marine_s_2This in from Greg Helms at Ocean Conservancy:

    "On Dec 6th, California officials announces that the mainland coast of southern California – from Pt. Conception offshore Lompoc to the Mexican boarder – is next in the statewide process of establishing coastal marine protected areas (MPAs) under the California Marine Life Protection Act. Much like the historic and successful effort to bring MPAs to the Channel Islands a few years back (and extended into federal waters last year), this effort will be a public process to determine how much and where to establish critically-needed protected areas throughout our coast so that marine life may thrive and recover. And like the Channel Islands effort, involvement and activism by Ocean Fans will be a key factor in a successful outcome!

    "I and groups such at the Santa Barbara ChannelKeeper look forward to working with you in '08 to successfully bring MPA protections to our coast! Please let me know if you want more information or have questions. My contact information is at the bottom of this post."

    [Channel Islands MPA. Photo: Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary]

    Background information:

    What is a Marine Protected Area?
    An MPA is a discrete area of the ocean in which human activity is restricted to visitation, appreciation and enjoyment, but not harvest, removal of wildlife or other damage (no consumption, in the jargon). Scientific research has indicated MPAs are a powerful, simple means to protect entire ocean ecosytems, preserve the wildlife living within these systems, and restore deleted ocean areas. Yet, MPAs have remained until now a little used tool and –less than 1 percent of US waters are protected in MPAs. MPAs are a somewhat drastic departure from how we traditionally manage ocean resources in that they target and protect ecosystems, rather than only managing individual stocks of ocean species by implementing catch quotas, fishing seasons, etc. Scientists also tell us that a system of MPAs can generate both massive increases in the number and size of animals within MPA borders, but also increase catch levels outside MPAs by increasing the number of fish and eggs available to fishing areas. From February 5-8, by the way, a public symposium will be held at the Mandalay Resort, Oxnard, to present the first scientific review of the ecological performance of the Channel Islands MPA network (still the largest in the lower 48 – only Northwest Hawai'ian islands is bigger). An excellent review of the science behind MPAs, written for the public, is online at http://www.piscoweb.org/outreach/topics/mpa.

    What is the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA)?
    Signed into law in 1999, the MLPA seeks to develop a network of marine protected areas (MPAs) along the entire California coastline. The first region to undergo the process was the Central coast from Point Conception near Santa Barbara to Half Moon Bay. After a period of planning, a landmark marine protected area plan went into effect on September 21, 2007 with the unanimous adoption of 29 MPAs. Currently the Fish and Game Commission are discussing design proposals for protected areas in the North Central Coast (Half Moon Bay to Point Arena in Mendocino County) as part of the second phase in the MLPA Initiative. Today, southern California will be announced as the next sub-region to receive treatment under the MLPA. The MLPA process is a stakeholder-driven, public, science (economics as well as biology and ecology) based process that will feature extensive opportunities for public input and receipt of local knowledge and recommendations. A very in-depth review of the MLPA process is available on the CA Department of Fish and Game's website at http://www.dfg.ca.gov/mlpa/index.asp.

    Greg Helms
    Ocean Conservancy
    [email protected]
    (805)687-2322
    www.oceanconservancy.org

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