Showing all articles with tag: MPAs.
The first month of the year is perhaps the best time to experience California’s ocean at its finest – which is why the 5th Annual Underwater Parks Day on Saturday, January 19th is a great reason to hit the coast and enjoy a marine protected area. To find an event near you, see the full schedule of events by region linked below.
It’s already been a busy month for California’s new network of over 100 underwater parks, which was completed just last December. Grey whales are traveling south along the coast to lagoons in Baja, California where they will give birth to calves. Some preemies and their mothers are already showing up off the coast of Los Angeles and San Diego, delighting whale watchers.
Further north, in Piedras Blancas and Año Nuevo State Park's marine protected areas, male elephant seals are engaging in their spectacular, violent mating rituals, while females are giving birth to a new generation of pups. Friends of the Elephant Seal and Ano Nuevo State Park docents offer guided tours of the action to visitors, who should use extreme caution and approach seals only with the assistance of a guide.
Stewards of the states’ underwater parks have planned activities and celebrations throughout the California coast at state beaches, aquaria, and nature centers, which are perfect for kids and adults to enjoy a day surrounded by sea life and learn more about the benefits of protecting California’s prime ocean habitats.
California's coast draws visitors from around the country and the world, and iconic areas like Point Reyes, Big Sur, and La Jolla are protected both above and below the water line, thanks to the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA), which established a series of underwater parks that extends protections from land to sea in many of the state's hotspots.
These underwater parks were featured in September's Sunset Magazine, which touted California's leadership in marine conservation, and suggested that the state's marine protected areas will likely be seen in 100 years as we view the creation of National Parks today--as a proud legacy that protects our shared natural heritage.
As Ocean Conservancy's Kaitilin Gaffney notes, the parade of sea life that swims and flies along our coast each fall has just begun. November brings thousands of gray whales headed south on their more than 6,000 mile migration from summer feeding grounds in the Bering and Chukchi seas to calving grounds in the warm-water lagoons of Mexico's Baja peninsula.
You can watch them from Point Reyes, Big Sur, or Davenport, north of Santa Cruz, where you can often see whales cruise by from the bluffs overlooking the sea.
Winter is also a great time to see elephant seals. From December to March they can be seen hauled out on California beaches at Point Reyes, Año Nuevo and Piedras Blancas where they mate, fight and give birth.
In addition to mammal sightings, this time of year brings great opportunities for birdwatching. Many seabirds spend their winters enjoying the relatively mild climate and reliable food supply of Monterey Bay. January brings murres, auklets, and other open-ocean birds in from their normal offshore habitat to calmer coastal waters.
Areas like Monterey Bay, Point Reyes, and the Farallon Islands have been set aside as marine protected areas or sanctuaries to help protect the wildlife that delights visitors.
Right now, California is working to expand its marine protected area system through the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA). This landmark effort brings fishermen, scientists, conservationists, business leaders and recreational ocean users together to map out a statewide network of ocean refuges that will keep special places from Del Norte County to San Diego full of ocean life.
We are often reminded just how critical the condition of the world’s oceans are – but rarely does anyone have the courage to remind us of the role we all play in the current system. For example, it is a powerful yet unsurprising statistic that our annual ocean harvest is now roughly three times the weight of every man, woman, and child in the United States. But what this new National Geographic article (part of an excellent issue devoted to the ocean) points out is that wealthy nations like the U.S. and Japan have essentially privatized the sea through our willingness to pay astronomical prices for big fish like tuna.
As our appetite for seafood has grown, “broader and broader swaths of the high seas have been transformed from fallow commons into heavily exploited, monopolized fishing grounds; and poor nations' seafood wealth spirited away by the highest bidder.”
Consumers in wealthy developed countries have a responsibility to vote with our forks – it is probably the single most important thing we can do to save the seas. One way to do that, as the article points out, is to eat lower on the food chain.
"A pound of tuna represents roughly a hundred times the footprint of a pound of sardines," marine scientist Daniel Pauly says.
Creating Marine Protected Areas and Marine Reserves are another essential step in achieving ocean sustainability; barely one percent of the ocean is now protected, compared with 12 percent of the land. By taking personal steps as consumers, and joint action through efforts like the Marine Life Protection Act, we can work to chart a sustainable future for the world’s oceans, and the fisheries they support.
We’ve been waiting a long time for this day, and it is finally upon us! Tomorrow, after over 2 years of hard work by a dedicated group of divers, fishermen, conservationists, and other local interests, the north central coast marine protected area system will go into effect, protecting iconic areas like Point Reyes Headlands, Bodega Head, the Farallon Islands, and Fitzgerald Marine Reserve.
The new underwater parks will include about 86 square miles of fully protected marine reserves, along with other areas that will receive additional protections but where some fishing is allowed.
Three cheers for the hard working Regional Stakeholder Group that literally met for hundreds of hours to develop this plan. By protecting these special ocean “hot spots,” key feeding and breeding grounds, we’ve taken a great step forward in our efforts to ensure the long-term health and productivity of California’s ocean.
Now get out there and go see some of our new ocean parks. Here are a couple upcoming opportunities: guided tidepool explorations at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve in Moss Beach and Duxbury Reef in Bolinas. Hope to see you there!
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