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.

Advertisements

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.

Continue reading

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.

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. 

Continue reading

Some Early Presents …

Chanukah came early for L.A. coastal waters

Just in time for Chanukah, or a little early for Christmas … It may not have been a MacBook Air, a PS3, or even the latest iPhone, but Southern California’s coastal waters this week received some regulatory presents significantly better than a pack of Zhu Zhu Pets.

The city of Los Angeles’ decision on the Low Impact Development ordinance may have been postponed (a cliché at this point), but the state Fish and Game commission and the Regional Water Board made a couple of enormous decisions this week.

Continue reading

Season’s Gratings

Bah humbug! for MPAs and TMDLs?

December means the holidays, and some very cold weather (at least for L.A.) and rain. It also means me eating way too many baked goods.  This year, December also brings major decisions that will affect coastal resources for generations to come — specifically votes on  marine protected areas and trash limits in the Los Angeles River. Unfortunately, one of the other major decisions — the Los Angeles Board of Public Works vote on the Low Impact development ordinance – has been postponed until Jan. 15 to address the concerns of the measures’ opponents, the Building Industry Assn.  The environmental and sustainable landscaping communities aren’t thrilled by the second postponement in as many months.  I hope the January vote is worth the wait.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading