A Reel Win

happy fishCall Ripley’s.  Sacramento finally got something right. On Wednesday the California Fish and Game Commission adopted a plan to create 24 marine protected areas (MPAs) along California’s north-central coast between Santa Cruz County and Mendocino Counties. These MPAs will protect about 86 square miles of coastal waters, but still leave 90% open to fishing.

The approved plan was a result of environmentalists and fishermen working together within the Marine Life Protection Act process. When it comes to protecting fish, these groups don’t always see eye to eye.  Despite these differences, they assembled a plan that included substantial compromise on all sides. The plan protects marine life AND keeps fishermen afloat.

Despite all the compromises though, the plan still exceeded all the scientific guidelines for creating MPAs. Rather than approving the alternative plan (a plan that did not meet these guidelines and that was supported exclusively by some in the fishing community),  the Fish and Game Commission used “good science” to make the right decision.

In 2007, the Fish and Game Commission adopted 29 MPAs from Santa Cruz County south to Santa Barbara, so the state network of 53  MPAs, now stretching from Mendocino down to Point Conception, is really coming together. Our Southern California coast is up next, with the big decision on local MPAs coming at the beginning of 2010.

So, what can we learn from our fellow Californians up north?

We need to follow the science. MPAs work, when you let them work.

They’re already doing their job bringing back marine life in California’s own Northern Channel Islands and in close to 50 other countries.

The other lesson we can learn is that we all have to work together: environmentalists and fishermen, and everyone else who cares about the health of the ocean.  Whether the issue is MPAs, stormwater pollution, marine debris, or getting coastal power plants to stop sucking the life out of the oceans via once-through cooling, we have to work together to protect these resources for future generations.

Heal the Bay does a lot of outreach to fishermen on the piers to talk to them about the health hazards of DDT, PCB and mercury contaminated fish.  In our work, we’ve met with over 75,000 anglers and many of them agree: we need to do something today to protect marine life for tomorrow.

Check out what some of these local pier anglers have to say on MPAs.

The process to put MPAs in southern California is entering the home stretch. Learn more and get involved at now at MPAsWork.org

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