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Old Baldy, Canada | photo by Cameron Schaus

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   Conservation Issues of the Ventana Chapter | monterey county

Central Coast focus of Marine Life Protection Act

by Kaitilin Gaffney, The Ocean Conservancy


Painting: "Past Ventana" by Bill Fravel
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 or the Fish and Game website at

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