Ocean Protection, Marine Protected Areas
June 24 2011

Update on Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in Southern California and New MPA Science

by Stefanie Sekich-Quinn


Last December, the California Fish and Game Commission approved a final plan for Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in southern California.   Next week (June 29), the Commission will meet to discuss the timeline for implementation of protected areas and review MPAs proposed for the far north coast.   While we are still waiting for the south coast MPAs to “officially go in”, there are several on-going efforts to ensure their success.  For example, volunteer pilots from LightHawk are conducting flyovers to document use in and around planned south coast protected areas. You can see their findings here.   

Monitoring and enforcement of MPAs will be an integral part of success.  Last year, the Otter Project created an innovative citizen science program, where volunteers help collect data on coastal and ocean use to help inform management of central coast protected areas.  Similar plan are slated for the south coast and the Surfrider Foundation will disseminate information once the program is up and running.    The MPA Monitoring Enterprise (an entity dedicated to impartial MPA monitoring) is also developing monitoring plans for south coast MPAs.  Go here to see status and updates. 

In Scientific MPA News….

Several reports released this week underscored the urgency of ocean protection efforts like California’s Marine Life Protection Act.  Scientists warn that climate change, overfishing, habitat loss and acidification are driving marine systems to the brink, and cited marine protected areas as a critical part of the solution to buffer against growing pressures and allow nature to rebound.

On June 20, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)  published a study that concluded the state of our oceans is more dire than previously thought and warned “this is a very serious situation demanding unequivocal action at every level. We are looking at consequences for humankind that will impact in our lifetime.”

While the findings are grim, the IUCN report does offer concrete steps we can take to reverse the downward trend in ocean health. The report summary specifically calls for the need to… 

“establish a globally comprehensive and representative system of marine protected areas to conserve biodiversity, to build resilience, and to ensure ecologically sustainable fisheries with minimal ecological footprint.”

Also this week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released a report that called for more marine reserves and protected areas in U.S. waters, particularly in coastal areas. It noted their value both for wildlife and for people:

“establishing a marine reserve not only protects and helps to restore the habitats and populations of organisms within the reserve, it can also support and enhance the habitats and populations throughout a region. This in turn supports human communities by protecting places and resources valued by people for their intrinsic and economic values.“

 Finally,a study published in Nature on June 22 underscored the value of protecting habitat “hot spots.” One of the authors was quoted in the San Diego Union Tribune calling for an ecosystem based management system (like a network of marine protected areas).

 Stayed tuned to this coastal blog for further updates about MPAs and the implementation of protected areas in southern California.