Central Coast focus of Marine Life Protection Act
by Kaitilin Gaffney, The Ocean Conservancy
The Marine Life Protection Act calls for marine protected areas to be established along the California coast. painting, "Past
Ventana" by Bill Fravel
One hundred years ago, Americans had the foresight to develop a
national park system. Today, we all enjoy the natural beauty and
recreational opportunities provided by special places like Yosemite
and the Grand Canyon. In 1999, the California Legislature passed
landmark legislation requiring similar protection for special places
in the ocean. This law, the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA), calls
for marine protected areas to be established along the California
coast. Marine protected areas have been used as ocean management
tools around the world for many years and have been scientifically
shown to help restore fish populations, protect important marine
habitat and enhance recreational opportunities such as wildlife
watching and scuba diving.
By the 1990s it was clear that California's ocean resources were
in trouble. Some fisheries had already collapsed, and our state's
growing coastal population was increasing pressure on ocean wildlife
and habitat. Although California did have some very small marine
protected areas in place, these areas covered less than 1% of the
State's coastal waters and were far too small to be effective. Recognizing
the need for improved ocean protection, the state legislature overwhelmingly
approved the Marine Life Protection Act.
The initial phase of MLPA implementation is currently focused on
the California central coast (from Pigeon Point in San Mateo County
to Point Conception in Santa Barbara County). Planning for the rest
of the coast will follow in coming years.
Over the past six months, a Regional Stakeholder Group, including
divers, fishers, conservationists, educators, and local business
people, has been meeting monthly to develop proposed maps of marine
protected areas for our region. A Blue Ribbon Task Force established
by the Governor will review these proposals in March and make recommendations
to the Fish and Game Commission. The Commission will then make the
final decision on which areas of the Central Coast shall be protected
by the end of 2006.
How to help
Now is the time to let your local and state elected officials know
that you support the highest level of ocean protection. It is particularly
important to let Governor Schwarzenegger know that you support the
Marine Life Protection Act (address in box to the right). Be sure
to send copies of your letter to your local elected officials.
For more information on the Marine Life Protection Act please go
to www.caloceans.org or the
Fish and Game website at www.dfg.ca.gov.
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