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By Reef Check California's SoCal Volunteer Coordinator Laurel Fink
Southern California marine biodiversity has gained an edge in the fight for protection in the most exciting time for marine conservation and management in California’s history. On December 15, 2010, the CA Fish and Game Commission voted 3-2 to establish 36 new Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the southern California region, which encompasses the state waters from Point Conception to the U.S.- Mexico border. This was a historical decision that will help to conserve the unique and important marine resources in this highly populated coastal region. This decision ended a large-scale process of planning and designing these MPAs through public input and meetings of stakeholders, scientists, and fishermen working together over a 2-year planning period. The new reserves will protect 187 square miles of ocean habitat (including both marine reserves and conservation areas), increasing protection significantly, especially in Los Angeles County, where no marine reserves had been declared.
The south coast study region is the third of five in the process of establishing a network of MPAs along the entire coast of California as mandated by the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA). Having one of the most highly valued coastlines worldwide, the public input and involvement by different interest groups in this region was intense, with over 12,000 written comments submitted in the 2-year review process which included more than 50 days available for public comment. Protection along this coastline will enhance the many recreational opportunities, such as SCUBA diving, surfing, kayaking and fishing, that the ocean provides for millions of people living in southern California. In addition, it is hoped that these reserves will help keep the ocean healthy for future generations to enjoy such activities.
Reef Check and our volunteers have been involved in the MLPA process since its onset in providing the Department of Fish and Game with our scientifically-rigorous data collected along the coast of southern California since 2006. Several of our Reef Check survey sites lie within the new MPA boundaries, or directly outside of them, which will prove to be very useful to managers to determine changes in e.g. fish populations. Reef Check sites such as Casino Point, Paradise Point offshore Malibu, La Jolla Cove, and all of our sites off the coast of Laguna Beach (among several others) will now be protected within marine reserves. Please click on the map above to view the locations of the new southern California MPAs.
On the North-Central coast, Reef Check recently helped to complete the first year of baseline monitoring in the newly established MPAs between Bodega Bay (Sonoma) and Point Arena in Mendocino County. RCCA is ready to help with the state mandated baseline monitoring of the MPAs when they will go into effect in southern California this year. As Reef Checkers, this is such an important time to be monitoring these reefs! Our volunteers are collecting truly critical data in terms of California’s marine management and conservation.