In case you missed it: Ocean protection efforts advance


Yesterday was a landmark day for ocean conservation in California, as the Fish and Game Commission took two important steps forward on implementation of the Marine Life Protection Act. This progress comes at a critical time; recent reports from the United Nations and NOAA highlight the urgent need for ocean habitat protection, and the benefits of marine protected area networks like the one California is working to create.

The Fish and Game Commission voted four to one in favor of an October 1, 2011 implementation date for the southern California marine protected areas approved last December. The network was designed to protect sea life and habitats at iconic coastal areas like south La Jolla, Laguna and Point Dume while leaving nearly 90 percent of the coast open for fishing. The new protected areas will improve access for recreation, study and education while boosting the overall health of California’s ocean. Local nonprofits, aquaria, and community groups are already hard at work preparing education, outreach, and monitoring programs to complement state enforcement efforts.

Scripps scientist Ed Parnell was quoted on KPBS describing the anticipated benefits:

"The reserves were designed so that you could protect a certain breeding stock of animals within this area that's supposed to be off limits," said Parnell. "And it's a win-win for the ecosystem in terms of the productive potential of these different species."

Ocean Conservancy’s Kaitilin Gaffney emphasized the move’s importance for coastal communities in the San Diego Union-Tribune:

“Southern California’s quality of life — and many of its jobs and businesses — rely on our coast and ocean. These protections cannot come soon enough.”

Also at the Fish and Game Commission meeting, Resources Secretary Laird unveiled a plan to support both continued traditional tribal gathering and improved ocean protection on California’s north coast, earning the approval of tribal leaders, elected officials, and conservationists.

In a press release Laird stated:

“We have devised a pathway to begin the process to allow tribes on the North Coast to continue ancestral fishing practices in many of the areas most important to them. This is an extremely important decision to move the Marine Life Protection Act forward and to show respect for the sovereign tribal nations… [We] hope this provides a framework for future efforts on important conservation and environmental issues.”

The Sacramento Bee said of the move:

“Though not yet final, it indicates a major shift in state policy toward coastal protection.”
Everyone involved in the Marine Life Protection Act planning process on the north coast has been unanimous on the importance of respecting traditional tribal cultural practices. The unified community plan put forth by local stakeholders was designed to avoid favored gathering grounds (as well as local harbors, to minimize impacts on both tribes and fishing fleets).

Ocean Conservancy’s Jennifer Savage said in the Eureka Times-Standard that the commission’s decision underscored the success of the compromises made by all stakeholders, including the tribes:

"Thanks to the willingness of tribal representatives to continue working with the state and Secretary Laird's tireless dedication to finding a solution, we're able to move toward better ocean protection while maintaining respect for traditional tribal gathering. It's another amazing achievement unique to the North Coast MLPA process.”

The community plan, along with Secretary Laird’s tribal gathering provision, will now undergo environmental analysis, with a final decision expected in early 2012.

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