MPAs Get a Chance to Work

Point Dume

Portions of Malibu's Point Dume are part of SoCal's new network of Marine Protected Areas

Yesterday, the California Department of Fish and Game boldly approved the official initiation of the Southern California Marine Protected Area (MPA) network. Despite the ongoing threat of litigation from fishing industry opponents, the Commission approved the October 1st start date by a 4-1 vote.

This means that the SoCal MPA network requirements will be enforceable starting this October. Fish and Game, along with community groups, environmental groups, aquaria, educational institutions, and the many groups that have been following the MPA process over the past several years, need to really focus on public education over the summer. In particular, a targeted effort on educating the wide-ranging fishing and broader ocean user community is critical for two reasons: 1 – to dispel fears of use restrictions in MPAs (for example – non-consumptive uses like surfing, diving and kayaking are NOT limited); and 2 – to provide accurate information on the consumptive use (fishing) restrictions in marine reserves (no take of any marine life) and marine conservation areas (limited take – usually affecting only the commercial fishing industry).

Meanwhile, Heal the Bay will continue its research on how the Malibu MPAs and adjacent coastal waters are used by visitors and commercial fishermen. This baseline data will prove critical as a point of comparison to assess changes in consumptive and non-consumptive uses in the new MPAs and adjacent waters.  If you’re interested in walking Malibu’s beaches and observing and tracking uses for this research effort, visit our site to get involved.

The recent Census of Marine Life findings that the CA Current has incredibly rich species diversity, equivalent to the Serengheti of the sea, as well as the International Earth System Expert Workshop results warning of pending marine species collapse, show the importance of these MPAs.

As the new MPAs take effect this fall, we should celebrate this historic move to help safeguard SoCal’s ocean economy and environment for the future.

Deep in the Heart of Texas

Samohi's Ocean Sciences Bowl team learned some valuable lessons over the weekend about winning and losing.

I just spent a looong weekend in Texas, hanging out at Texas A&M Galveston overlooking the Bay and the lime green piles of sulfur lining the shores of the port. I flew out to watch the finals of the National Ocean Sciences Bowl and to root for the team from Santa Monica High School. Go Vikings!

I flew in Friday and got to the venerable Galvez Hotel on the Galveston breakwater by the afternoon. Beautiful hotel, but Galveston’s beaches are no match for the sand and surf of Santa Monica Bay. That evening, we went to Moody Garden Aquarium to hear Her Deepness herself give an inspirational talk on the importance of the oceans and why everyone needs to fight for them. Sylvia Earle always has this calm, persuasive way of making humanity realize the value of ocean stewardship.

Sylvia was nice enough to hang with the Samohi crew during dinner in the aquarium. Little did I know that this would be the first of many meals dominated by single-use plastics. Like every event she attends, Sylvia was a rock star, signing autographs, taking photos and answering everyone’s questions.

On Saturday, the games began. Watching my son Zack and his teammates, Dana, Mari and Maddy, compete at the marathon competition on Saturday marked one of the proudest moments of my life. Ingo Gaida, the Samohi Oceans Bowl team coach, did an extraordinary job preparing the students for the nationwide tourney. These guys already know more about the world’s oceans than I’ll ever know.

And they were joined by teams from Alaska to Hawaii, New England to Florida. The whole nation was well represented.

By the end of the day, there were three more plastic-served meals, consisting of Polystyrene plates and cutlery and Styrofoam cups. I don’t think any of our food came on readily recyclable plastics. Haven’t any numbers other than sixes even hit Texas yet? And recycling must not have hit Galveston.

The teams were culled down to the final six. Samohi was the top seed and finished the day undefeated, winning every game handily. This guaranteed a spot in the Final Four. Even the incessant local greeting of “Howdy” and our growing contribution to the global marine crisis didn’t get to me on Saturday. I was so proud.

We decided to ditch another plastic dinner and celebrate with grub at Gaido’s in homage to the coach’s almost namesake restaurant. A magical day ended with us sitting along Galveston high school students dressed to the nines for their prom dinner at the shoreline seafood restaurant that survived the last hundred years of hurricanes.  The giant green crab on the restaurant roof served as the perfect cap to a perfect day.

Saturday was more wonderful and stressful than watching UCLA get to the Final Four. Unfortunately, Sunday brought back flashbacks of Florida and Memphis State. This was Samohi’s Alamo.

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Mapping a Life’s Work

Guest blogger Sarah Sikich, Heal the Bay’s director of coastal resources, offers some advice on navigating the backroom battles of environmental policy-making. She served on a stakeholder panel that helped negotiate a highly contentious network of marine protected areas in Southern California.
 
The holiday season continues with the recognition of a little-known holiday, Underwater Parks Day, this weekend. And, this year we have a lot to celebrate. The California Fish and Game Commission made history last month by adopting the first network of marine protected areas (MPAs) for Southern California, marking our region’s first system of underwater parks. As a staff scientist at Heal the Bay, I played a role in the often contentious efforts to assemble the MPA maps, which set aside strategic sections of our shoreline for protection from fishing and other consumptive uses.

Sikich exploring boundaries off Point Dume

It will take years for the full history of our work to be written, but in the spirit of New Year’s introspection, I’ve been reflecting about the grueling but rewarding process. I’ve felt a slew of emotions – overwhelmed (in a positive way), pride and a smidge of disbelief. I had studied and educated about MPAs for over a decade, as a lowly undergrad at the University of New Hampshire, teaching at the Catalina Island Marine Institute, and then conducting my graduate research at U.C. Santa Barbara. And then I got to play an active role in the actual implementation of MPAs in Southern California. It isn’t every day that you to get to fulfill a professional dream.

As a member of the South Coast Regional Stakeholder Group — one of 64 individuals appointed to represent interests including commercial and recreational fishing, conservationists, local officials, and educators — I’ve spent hundreds of hours of personal and professional time over the past several years researching the South Coast, negotiating boundaries and creating MPA proposals that ultimately influenced the final Fish and Game decision. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through professionally, and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that there were moments I considered quitting the process.

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A Well-Earned MPA Victory!

After years of debate, Point Dume has been designated as a Marine Protected Area by the state of California.

After two years of marathon stakeholder negotiation sessions, endless contentious public hearings and reams of studies and environmental documents, the California Department of Fish and Game today finally established a network of Marine Protected Areas in Southern California, passing a slightly revised version of the Integrated Preferred Alternative by a 3-2 vote.

The final vote reflects tough compromise. The maps protect some key places from extractive uses, like Point Dume, Naples and La Jolla, but fail to meet scientific guidelines in some locations. (For example, the fishermen won the battle for Rocky Point, and the MPA at Farnsworth Banks is little more than a paper park). The  commission also made a few small changes at Swami’s and La Jolla in San Diego County.

The final hearing and vote took place in Santa Barbara, a fitting location given that the northern Channel Islands became  California’s first designated marine protected areas years ago.

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A December to Remember

Packages

Who's naughty or nice? This holiday season holds the promise of great gifts for the regional environment

December brings connotations of the holiday season.  Office parties, vacations, holiday shopping, football bowl games, family gatherings, overeating, lighting the menorah, and Christmas lights and trees.  For Heal the Bay, this December is anything but a time to ease into the new year.  As always, there is our push for year-end giving.  Tis the season for charitable write offs.  Also, once again, Heal the Bay is spearheading the Day Without a Bag event.  Over 25,000 bags will be given away at over 150 locations throughout L.A. County on Dec. 16 as a reminder to bring reusable bags whenever you go shopping.  Once again, partners include L.A. County, Los Angeles, other cities, retailers, grocers and other environmental groups.  This year, the event has spread across much of the state with counties from San Diego to San Francisco participating.

However, this December is as busy as any previous December I can remember.  Continue reading

Playing Politics with MPAs

Palos Verdes' Rocky Point: a political pawn

Sanity was restored last week to the California State Fish and Game Commission’s efforts to establish a network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in Southern California. The Schwarzenegger administration has long made it a priority to meet the requirements of the Marine Life Protection Act, which calls for establishing a statewide network on MPAs. 

But pressure has built from opposition groups the past few months to extend the Draft Environmental Impact Report comment period for the South Coast.  The end result would have stalled MPA implementation in Southern California, an area where protections are much needed.

In the days leading up to last week’s hearing, Fish and Game Commissioner Michael Sutsos was removed from the panel and replaced by Jack Baylis, an environmental engineering executive at AECOM who previously served as a State Parks Commissioner, Coastal Conservancy member and Heal the Bay vice-chair.

In a compromise measure, the commission voted 5-0 to extend the DEIR comment period by 15 days.  This move provided additional time for public comment, but will not affect the timing of the commission’s final vote on Southern California MPAs, scheduled for mid-December.

A disturbing side issue has been the effort by the L.A. County Sanitation Districts to use the Marine Life Protection Act implementation process to lobby the State Water Board.  The Districts’ sewage outfall sits about two miles from the proposed MPAs, so officials fear that their sewage discharge will lead to tougher water quality requirements to ensure clean water in the reserves. 

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Fish Fight

Jonathan Gold's diet would put a mako's to shame.

My brother Jonathan Gold, the food writer, will moderate a panel Wednesday night on sustainable seafood at the Skirball Center.  Zocalo is putting on the free event.  The other panelists will be renowned seafood chef Michael Cimarusti, from Providence, and Logan Kock, the chief buyer and seafood encyclopedia from Santa Monica Seafood.  Michael and Logan are two of the most knowledgeable people in the field of sustainable seafood, and definitely a heck of a lot more informed on the issues than the Gold Brothers.  But my focus will be on the moderator.

This will be our first public dust-up on seafood issues since our whale wars over a year ago.  Jonathan has the advantage.  This is definitely a foodie audience and, as moderator, he has control of the mike.  I still have a fighter’s chance because the topic is sustainable seafood and Jonathan may not have been in an ocean since his high school days.

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