CalOceans News

Showing all articles with tag: Marine Protected Areas.


Underwater Parks Day 2013 - Saturday, January 19

January 13th, 2013

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 pupsFriends 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. 

Southern California Events (San Diego to Santa Barbara)
Central California Events (Morro Bay to Santa Cruz)
Northern California Events (San Francisco to Arcata).


California MPAs in Sunset Magazine!

August 30th, 2012

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.


Jan. 21 is Underwater Parks Day!

January 13th, 2012

Mark your calendars: Saturday, January 21 is the fourth annual Underwater Parks Day. It’s a time to celebrate California’s other state parks…the ones in the ocean! 

There is a lot to celebrate in Southern California, where a new network of underwater parks, or “marine protected areas,” was created on January 1 to protect coastal jewels like south La Jolla, Laguna, Point Dume, and Naples Reef. South coast aquaria will have interactive exhibits, videos, speakers, and tidepool tours to introduce local residents to the sea creatures these undersea refuges are designed to shelter.  Click here to find an event near you.

If you prefer to celebrate outside, consider joining Santa Barbara Channelkeeper for a kayak tour of Campus Point, or a Goleta River clean-up.  Or help Heal the Bay clean up Westward Beach before
enjoying a guided nature walk of Point Dume.

If you live in Orange County, and consider yourself a sharpshooter, why not enter Laguna Bluebelt’s photo contest .  From Crystal Cove to Dana Point, the Orange County coastline has several
underwater parks
that offer stunning vistas and thriving sea life.

If you’re in Northern California, please considering joining Half Moon Bay Surf Club, Surfrider Foundation and Ocean Conservancy to celebrate Underwater Parks Day with a beach cleanup at Pillar Point in Half Moon Bay

Lastly, if you want to learn more about the new underwater park at the mouth of the Tijuana River, come on out February 4 to take a guided nature walk and hear special guest speaker Dr. Octavio Aburto from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography talk about the aquarium of the world, Baja’s Cabo Pulmo. The Cabo Pulmo marine protected area boosted fish numbers by a record-breaking 463% over 10 years.

We look forward to seeing California’s sea life flourish like Baja’s, thanks to the system of marine protected areas our state is creating through the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA)!


The great migration along California's coast

November 17th, 2011

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.


A Healthy Ocean Harvest

October 31st, 2011

This month, we are thankful for the great strides being made in marine protected area creation, research, and education in California.  Read on for the latest news:

Court upholds northern California marine protected areas
The big (and really good!) news this month was a Superior Court decision that upheld California’s authority to create underwater parks along northern California’s coast under the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA). This ruling is a win for the economy, environment and the millions of visitors who flock to our shores every year. It’s also good news for the South Coast, where a series of marine protected areas are slated to go into effect on January 1. California worked hard to include divers, surfers, fishermen, business leaders and other groups in the planning process, and the court’s ruling validates the state’s community-driven approach.

Getting the word out in Southern California
With the eagerly awaited opening day for southern California’s new underwater parks just weeks away, Surfrider and Reef Check are teaming up on a series of public forums designed to raise awareness about the protected areas, and answer any questions people might have. They are hosting events in Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego. To find one near you, check out this flyer.

A different kind of lobster hunt
Monitoring the plants and animals that live in and around California’s new underwater parks will provide a detailed picture of the current state of our ocean so we can track changes over time and make even better decisions going forward. Gathering this information requires an all-hands on deck effort, which is why innovative partnerships such as the one taking place between lobster fishermen, state wildlife regulators and scientists in San Diego are so important. This collaborative study will establish a baseline for California spiny lobster populations. And scientists need your help! Anyone who catches a tagged lobster is encouraged to document the catch at

“Thank You Ocean” says “thank you MPAs”
California’s Thank You Ocean Campaign, a nonprofit partnership supported by the State of California, the NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and the Ocean Communicators Alliance, has unveiled a new page dedicated to MPAs (click here for the Spanish version). In addition to lots of great info on the MLPA and the iconic waters being protected, you can find a series of podcasts, including this recent story that explains that importance of adaptive management.


Scripps study underscores urgent need for ocean protection

September 28th, 2011

A recent study from Scripps Institution of Oceanography found that two critical recreational fisheries—barred sand bass and kelp bass—have collapsed. Populations of these popular sportfish have dropped by 90 percent since 1980, and study authors say overfishing is partly to blame.

So how did the fisheries reach such alarmingly low levels without gaining the attention of state agencies? Because fishing for the two species is concentrated in spawning areas, which gives a false impression of abundance. Huge numbers of fish gather to breed, masking dwindling overall populations. The phenomenon is known as “the illusion of plenty.”

Study author Brad Erisman explained it in the San Diego Union-Tribune:
“The problem is when fish are aggregating in these huge masses, fishermen can still catch a lot each trip, so everything looks fine—but in reality the true population is declining.”

The findings are the latest in a worrying trend of California fisheries declines. Assessed species like cowcod and California sheephead are depleted and show little sign of recovery, and a new assessment of halibut indicates its southern California population is deeply depressed.

Fishermen had already noted the decline of halibut. As the Los Angeles Times reported, the Marina del Rey Anglers canceled last year’s halibut derby, and this year opened it up to other species to allow halibut to recover. Fishermen have also noticed smaller catches of sand and kelp bass. Dave Elm, Chairman of United Anglers of Southern California said in the Orange County Register:

"We don't get the spawns we used to have 10 years ago on the Huntington Flats."

Reversing the downward trend in California fisheries will require decisive action. In addition to reducing the bag limit and increasing minimum catch size, it is vital the state protects feeding and breeding grounds with the creation of marine protected areas. California is working to develop a science-based network of these underwater parks through the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA). Studies all over the world have shown the protected ocean areas help to boost fish size and numbers, as well as overall ecosystem diversity and resilience.


Studying southern California's ocean

July 22nd, 2011

Southern California will soon have a new system of underwater parks to keep treasured ocean areas thriving. The state has announced an October 1 effective date for the marine protected area approved last December.

Community and nonprofit groups are already gearing up to help spread the word and steward protected areas in their backyards. A number of citizen science programs are also underway to track activities in and around the parks, and a set of official baseline monitoring projects will kick off shortly.

On July 15, the Ocean Protection Council awarded $4 million in funding for a series of research projects that will help scientists understand the current health of planned protected areas. The projects, which will collect baseline information for up to three years, will target marine life and habitats, as well as commercial and recreational activities, inside and outside the protected areas.

Teams of researchers, citizen-scientists, and fishermen will survey southern California’s sandy beaches, rocky shores, kelp beds and deep-water ecosystems to increase our understanding of marine science and enable the state to track results from the network of protected ocean areas.


Heading off ocean doomsday

June 23rd, 2011

Several reports released this week underscored the urgency of ocean protection efforts like California’s Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA).  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.”

A story in the San Francisco Chronicle noted, “damage to marine life would harm its ability to support humans.”

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 reportthat 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 worldwide importance of the California Current, likened to the Serengeti, for the survival of top ocean predators like sharks, sea turtles and tunas. The study emphasized 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).

The message for California is clear: global scientific consensus supports the need for timely implementation of the MLPA. A statewide system of marine protected areas will function like an insurance policy against environmental changes, boosting resilience, enhancing our understanding of marine systems, and safeguarding vital resources. 

On June 29, the California Fish and Game Commission will meet to discuss the timeline for implementation of the southern California protected areas approved last December, and to review marine protected areas proposed for the far north coast. 

Reached via email, Dr. Mark Ohman of Scripps Institution of Oceanography, said, “It is in both the short and long term interests of the state of California to implement the MLPA plan sooner rather than later.”

With so many jobs and businesses depending on the productivity of our ocean, it’s clear that ocean protection must remain a top priority for our state, with completion of the statewide network of protections called for in the MLPA as job number one.


Happy anniversary to the north central coast MPAs!

May 1st, 2011

A year ago today, California created a system of undersea parks that dots the coast between Pigeon Point in San Mateo County and Alder Creek near Mendocino.  This network of protections includes coastal and offshore treasures like Pt. Reyes, Bodega Head, and the Farallon Islands.  The Marine Life Protection Act also resulted in increased protections for beloved tidepool destination Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, where students, tourists and locals flock at low tides to see and learn about northern California's intertidal sea life. 

Marine protected areas act like sanctuaries for ocean plants and animals, which have been shown to grow and multiply in the preserves, re-seeding surrounding waters and increased diversity and resilience. But they are also designed to enhance recreation, education, and research opportunities.  And if Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, recently featured on KQED's Quest, is any indication, California is on the right track. 

Happy anniversary to the north central coast marine protected areas, and our thanks to all of the divers, kayakers, fishermen, scientists, and conservationists that helped to shape this system of protections!


Fisheries benefits convert marine reserve skeptics

March 21st, 2011

Supporters of smart ocean conservation have long known that marine reserves and protected areas deliver a multitude of benefits – ecologically and economically. Yet opponents of the Marine Life Protection Act continue to portray the issue as Us versus Them, where those in the fishing industry stand to either win or lose based on the level of protections put into place. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: simply not true.

Case in point: the marine reserves around overfished coral reefs in Kenya, where Dr. Tim McClanahan, a marine biologist at the Wildlife Conservation Society, has been tracking the increasing number of fish local fishermen are catching along the border of the reserve. Contrary to expectations, the incomes of the nearby fishermen doubled within a year of the introduction of these reserves.  Previously vocal opponents of marine reserves, the fishermen have become vocal supporters of additional reserves.

You can read and hear about it here.

We’ve seen similar success at other reserves around the world, including close to home at the Channel Islands. We at CalOceans love to hear – and share – these success stories, which encourage us to continue in our efforts to secure California’s long-term health through the MLPA.


Commission supports north coast community plan

February 2nd, 2011

Today, the California Fish and Game Commission met in Sacramento
to begin considering protections for the state’s far north coast. For the first time in the six-year MLPA process, the Commission received a unified marine protected area plan.

The unified plan was designed by north coast fishermen, conservationists, business owners, and tribal leaders, and endorsed unanimously by policy experts on the Blue Ribbon Task Force. 

North coast stakeholders were the only regional group to agree on a single plan, rather than sending on competing alternatives for state officials to compare. The plan would protect about 13% of state waters between Alder Creek and the Oregon border, including Ten-Mile, South Cape Mendocino,
Reading Rock and Pyramid Point.  It would also protect traditional tribal
harvest, and avoid harbors to ensure safe access to fishing grounds for local

The local plan has the support of all of the coastal cities, countries and
harbor districts in the North Coast as well as more than 40 fishing, environmental and agency groups, and the broad community approval was evident during the public comment session at today’s meeting, in which 70 citizens spoke about the importance of a healthy ocean for the north coast’s economy and way of life.

In the end the Commission offered unanimous support for the stakeholder proposal and directed staff to follow the guidance provided at the beginning of the meeting by Resources Secretary John Laird to try to identify a path forward that would respect continued tribal traditional uses in north coast marine protected areas.

The Commission will consider the north coast MLPA again at their April meeting in Folsom.


Proven: Marine protected areas boost fishery health

December 22nd, 2010

A new peer-reviewed study from PLoS One shows what conservationists and fishermen have known all along: protected areas in the ocean allow fish to grow, multiply, and spill out into nearby open areas where they can be caught by anglers (that’s why you see so many boats “fishing the line” near marine reserves).  It also shows, for the first time, that these sea sanctuaries seed nearby waters with baby fish, helping to boost fishery health in the surrounding area.

This is great news for California, since the state’s Fish and Game Commision just approved a new network of marine protected areas that will extend from Santa Barbara to the border with Mexico, protecting southern California’s most iconic ocean areas and rebuilding depleted fisheries in the region. 


Approved: Sweeping south coast ocean health plan

December 16th, 2010

In a landmark decision, the California Fish and Game Commission voted 3-2 yesterday to adopt a network of marine protected areas that will stretch from Santa Barbara to the Mexican border. These protected areas will join others that dot the coast from Santa Barbara to Mendocino, forming part of the statewide system of underwater parks called for in the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA). 

The Commission voted in favor of a compromise plan that combined ideas from fishermen, divers, conservationists and scientists. The plan was designed to balance environmental and economic considerations. Peer-reviewed studies show that well-designed marine reserves boost fisheries yield and profits.  They also improve coastal tourism and
recreation opportunities, which are big business in southern California,
accounting for 80 cents out of every dollar spent by visitors.

Yesterday’s conservation milestone was heralded in media all over the state:

California has led the nation in establishing marine reserves, an idea conceived in response to steep population declines of rockfish, cod, lobster, abalone and other ocean dwellers despite catch limits and other fishing regulations. Scientists who helped draft the plan argued that some species could disappear entirely without fishing bans in a diverse assortment of underwater canyons, kelp forests, sandy seafloors and rocky reefs.

Commissioner Richard B. Rogers voted in favor of the plan, saying it struck an "elegant balance" between conservation and fishing interests. "The overarching goal is to return California to the sustainable abundance
I observed growing up," the lifelong scuba diver said.

Commissioner Michael Sutton, founding director of the Center for the Future of the Oceans at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, called the protections "good news for everyone who cares about the future of our fisheries and the future of our marine ecosystems."
-- Los Angeles Times, December 15, 2010

The MLPA planning effort has sparked an incredible outpouring of public support from elected officials, local businesses, community organizations and scientists. Tens of thousands of southern Californians attended meetings, made public comments or signed petitions supporting improved ocean protection.
-- Dana Point Times, December 16, 2010

“It’s like a savings account for our ocean. Set a little aside so it can recuperate and thrive and we will all ... benefit from the interest.”
-- San Diego Union Tribune, December 15, 2010

Marcela Gutierrez with Wildcoast says a variety of groups and the public have been working for two years on plans to create the underwater parks. "This is a trailblazing effort. It's one of the first of its kind in the world. The whole conservation community is watching, and it's great for our coastal oceans going forward." Gutierrez says the MPAs ultimately will become fish nurseries that will benefit fishermen.
-- Public News Service, December 15, 2010

For more information visit


Yvon Chouinard: Set Gold Standard for Ocean Health Care

December 7th, 2010

Check out Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard's opinion piece in the Santa Barbara Independent reflecting on the need for marine protected areas in Southern California.

In his opinion editorial entitled "Setting a Gold Standard for Ocean Health Care," Chouinard talks about the business and cultural value of ocean protection:

...This philosophy of responsible enterprise has taught me my most important lesson as a businessman: Doing the right thing for the environment makes for good, financially sound business. At Patagonia we’ve found that every time we’ve elected to do the right thing, even when it costs twice as much, it’s turned out to be more profitable in the long run. It has allowed us to contribute to conservation organizations working on behalf of the world’s natural areas and wildlife, including the marine life in California’s coastal waters through the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA).

The ocean and the sea life it sustains are a part of our natural heritage and should be managed in trust for future generations, yet less than one percent of the ocean is protected. Each year the fish get smaller and less numerous. This is a disturbing trend we are seeing in oceans worldwide...

...The MLPA is a forward-looking law that calls for a network of MPAs along the length of the California coastline. That network has already been mapped out for the central part of the state, and the California Fish and Game Commission will make a final decision on protected areas for southern California during their meeting in Santa Barbara on December 15. Public comments will be accepted, so if you care about the future of the southern California coast, please attend and make your voice heard.

The MLPA takes us a step towards making the 21st century the Century of the Environment, as Edward O. Wilson calls for in his 2002 book, The Future of Life...

And let’s not forget the short-term payoffs: California’s coastal economies depend on a healthy ocean. According to the National Ocean Economics Program, southern California’s coastal economy employs more than 7 million people and contributes nearly $900 billion to the overall state economy. The vast majority of coastal visitors come for reasons other than fishing: they come to dive, walk the beach, surf and watch wildlife.
As legendary environmentalist David Brower once said, “There’s no business to be done on a dead planet.” Perhaps that’s a bit grim, but it reminds us that we need to overcome the sensibility that business and environmental stewardship are mutually exclusive. We can use business to inspire and implement solutions to our environmental challenges.

In other words, start close to home and see where it leads. A network of MPAs along California’s coastline will bring major ecologic and economic benefits to the state, and set a gold standard for ocean protection we can hope to replicate around the world.


Tide turning in support of MLPA

November 10th, 2010

As southern California rounds the home stretch on its landmark ocean habitat planning effort, citizens are standing up in record numbers to support conservation. The California Fish and Game Commission will finalize plans for the south coast’s Marine Protected Area network at their December meeting in Santa Barbara.

The rising tide of support for ocean protection was clear, as divers, students, kayakers, surfers and conservationists formed a sea of blue at last month’s Fish and Game Commission meeting in San Diego.

More than 1,000 southern Californians attended in support of the compromise plan, and thousands more sent emails or signed petitions supporting an ocean protection plan that will keep the region’s sea life and economy healthy for years to come.

Southern Californian business leaders have come out strongly in support of Marine Protected Areas, citing the economic importance of a healthy ocean. To date 137 businesses, including Patagonia, Pacific Gallery, and Prudential Realty Group, have signed a letter in support of the Marine Life Protection Act, pointing to the 15 million jobs and nearly $800 billion in wages in the coastal economy that depend on a healthy, productive ocean. 

More than 2,500 people signed petitions on and telling the commissioners how important the waters of South La Jolla, Laguna Beach, Naples Reef, Swamis, Rocky Point, Point Dume and Catalina are to them.

Finally, the region’s elected officials have joined their voice to the chorus of support, with 47 city, county and state representatives signing letters in support of the MLPA. Six city councils have also passed resolutions in support of the effort.

Southern Californians have made it clear they support this effort to safeguard the health and beauty of California’s coastal waters for future generations.  This is by far the biggest expression of grassroots support for ocean habitat protection in California history – with six weeks to go!


More evidence that marine reserves work

October 6th, 2010

Over the past decade or so we’ve seen an immense body of science come out supporting the idea that discrete areas, set off limits to extractive use, will benefit sea life. This conclusions is as near to iron-clad scientific fact as you can get, at least in terms of non-migratory species like sheepshead. There is still some debate, however, over how well marine protected areas help migratory species.

Which brings us to today’s post. A fascinating study on the effects of World War II (what could be classified, in this context, as a “temporary, accidental fishing closure”) on the cod, haddock and whiting of the North Sea. Reports reveal that fishing activity in the area dropped from 300,000 hours a year in 1938 to practically zero after the war started in 1939.

These three species, which had been in decline leading up to the war, began to rebound immediately. At the cessation of hostilities, when fishing began again, their decline continued. Here’s a great Economist article summarizing the findings.

Here in California, we have a wealth of both migratory and non-migratory sea life, and it’s great to see that the Marine Life Protection Act will benefit them all.


Learn More about MPAs on the North Coast - Open Houses Coming Soon

June 24th, 2010

Open houses have been scheduled in Northern California for the public to review and provide input on four draft proposals developed through the Marine Life Protection  Act (MLPA) Initiative. The open houses will focus on draft MPA proposals for the North Coast Study Region, which covers state waters from the  California/Oregon border to Alder Creek near Point Arena in Mendocino County.

Members of the public are invited to attend at any time during the day and evening sessions – in five locations throughout the study region – to visit informational stations and offer input.

Members of the MLPA North Coast Regional Stakeholder Group developed the draft MPA proposals during Round 2 of a three-round planning process. They will be on hand to answer questions and discuss how these ideas will help meet the goals of improved marine life, habitats and overall ecosystem health. MLPA Initiative staff, California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) staff, California State Parks staff and members of the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task
Force will also be available. 

The five open houses are scheduled for:
Fort Bragg - Tuesday, July 6 (5:00-7:30 PM)
Briceland - Wednesday, July 7, (8:00-10:00 a.m.)
Eureka - Wednesday, July 7 (5:00-7:30 p.m.)
Orick - Thursday, July 8, 2010 (11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.)
Crescent City - Thursday, July 8, 2010 (5:00-7:30 p.m.)

If you cannot attend, you are welcome to view the proposals online and offer your comments.


Kenyan Marine Reserves Put Money in Fishermen’s Pockets

June 17th, 2010

Yet another scientific study has been published showing the benefits of marine protected areas – both for fish and for fishers. The study, published in the journal Conservation Biology, showed that fishermen pulled more and bigger fish from waters near MPAs.

"Resistance to closures and to gear restrictions from fishermen and the fishing industry is based largely on the perception that these options are a threat to profits," said Tim McClanahan, a senior conservationist at the US-based Wildlife Conservation Society , which conducted the study. "These findings challenge those perceptions."

Policymakers—seeing how Kenya's marine protected areas are breathing life into depleted fisheries—are considering adopting similar policies in countries neighboring Kenya.

This study joins the list now longer than a full-grown giant sea bass showing that carefully selected marine protected zones can pay major dividends– strengthening our resolve as we forge ahead with California’s great experiment in community-driven ocean protection, the Marine Life Protection Act.

Scientists call for "National Parks at Sea"

June 8th, 2010

Today is World Oceans Day, a day we set aside to celebrate and give thanks to our life-giving oceans for all they provide for us. They feed us, transport us, and create the air we breathe. This year, the world’s marine scientists are celebrating World Oceans Day by making a unified call for large-scale “National Parks at Sea.”

Over 245 ocean scientists representing 35 countries have come out today  saying we need a worldwide MPA network – a global solution to the problem of declining ocean health around the globe. And while most MPAs around the world are small and targeted, like those selected for California’s network of underwater parks, the scientists claim we need to think bigger – as in, Yosemite big.

Large marine reserves can counter the effects of overfishing by offering a refuge for sea life to breed and spawn, providing for healthier fisheries as the fish swim into surrounding areas, and thus ensuring more resilient coastal economies.

Three cheers for the brave marine scientists, and a Happy World Oceans Day from CalOceans!

Spreading the word about new ocean parks

May 4th, 2010

Ocean Conservancy's Samantha Murray and Bolinas fisherman Josh Churchman have been busy spreading the word about the North Central Coast's new ocean parks.

After driving the length of the north central coast study region and distributing maps and fliers illustrating the new regulations, they penned this opinion piece for Santa Rosa's Press Democrat

You don't have to stop by your local bait shop to read about the latest regulations - download a full color flier with detailed coordinates and regulations established by the new north central coast MPAs, and check out detailed maps of San Mateo and Marin county's new MPAs.

A Wave of Change for California's Ocean

April 28th, 2010

The following video, produced by photographer Kip Evans, explains how California's Marine Life Protection Act, and the science-based system of marine protected areas it will create along our coast, will help restore the ocean to abundance. 


Our troubled oceans--you have to see it to believe it

April 26th, 2010

Following up on last week’s post on the need to give the ocean its fair share of the Earth Day attention, CalOceans would like to share this TIME magazine article that presents a theory on why ocean health never gets adequate attention. Whether you’re talking about funding for conservation, or marine protected areas (which account for a scant 0.8% of the world’s ocean), the deep blue sea that covers 70% of the planet gets short shrift.

The cause, suggests TIME’s Bryan Walsh, is that we can’t see the degradation human activity is causing to the ocean. In the words of Jean-Michel Cousteau: “Because we’re visual creatures and we can’t see what’s going on, we don’t relate.”

We have fished out an estimated 90% of the major commercial fish species. Commercial fishing trawlers rake the sea floor, destroying habitat. Pollution flows unchecked.

Fortunately, and as the article points out, MPAs can “make a significant difference in ocean health.” They give sea life a break from human influence and a chance to recover. It’s good to receive a reminder that here in California, we’re on the right track with the Marine Life Protection Act, which will result in a network of MPAs along the full length of the coast.


MPAs as living labs

March 29th, 2010

California's new marine protected areas (MPAs) are being studied by legions of scientists working on the most comprehensive assessment of the state's coastal ecosystems ever undertaken.

Ongoing monitoring will enable scientists to track the effects of the new MPAs as well as climate change on the state's waters. From Peter Raimondi, professor and chair of ecology and evolutionary biology at UC Santa Cruz:

“The MPA monitoring program has made a real effort to bring together groups that can do rigorous assessments across all the coastal systems; it's assessing all the nearshore habitats in a very integrated way, and that just hasn't been done before.”

This monitoring effort is an example of California’s MPA network working as a “living laboratory,” allowing scientists to better understand how the ocean functions. As the science improves, so do our ocean management practices, which is good for all ocean users.

The results of the baseline monitoring surveys have just been published by the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans (PISCO).

Scientists warn that it may take five to 10 years to see the effects of the new protections, but if the thousands of MPAs used in countries around the world are any indication, California's ocean sanctuaries will produce more and bigger fish, and healthier, more resilient ecosystems.


Study: Marine reserves boost lobster fisheries

March 25th, 2010

A team of marine scientists released a study last week showing that the spillover of lobsters from marine reserves more than compensates for lost fishing grounds.  During the 10 year study period, the net gain to fishermen was about 10% annually.

The study, published this month in the magazine Marine Ecology Progress Series, was conducted by researchers of the Balearics Oceanographic Centre of the Spanish Oceanography Institute with collaboration from scientists at the universities of Washington and Michigan.

This is further evidence that science-based marine protected areas are good for the ocean as well as our economy. By investing in our ocean resources through the use of protected areas, we are ensuring the long-term viability of our commercial fishing industries as well.


Southern California ocean protection effort advances

March 5th, 2010

The California Fish and Game Commission held their meeting of the year on the Marine Life Protection Act in Ontario this week.  They heard over four hours of public testimony from seventy-five south coast residents, each weighing in on marine protected area plans for the south coast.
Many surfers, scientists, divers, and conservationists lobbied for stronger protections for iconic ocean areas like Rocky Point and south La Jolla, but the commission voted 3-2 to maintain the compromise plan known as the “Integrated Preferred Alternative” as their proposed project.
The compromise plan draws from three stakeholder proposals developed over a year of study and negotiations among different interest groups.  It would protect beloved ocean areas like Naples Reef, Dume underwater canyon, Laguna, and Swamis Reef while leaving the vast majority of the coast, including most of the region’s most popular fishing grounds, open for fishing. 

“We applaud the Commission’s decision move forward with this vital ocean protection effort,” said Greg Helms of the Ocean Conservancy. “New research unveiled at last month’s American Association for the Advancement of Science conference shows that well-designed marine protected areas provide both economic and environmental benefits.  With so many southern California businesses depending on the health and productivity of our coastal waters, we can’t afford to delay protection.”
The Commission’s decision indicates initial support for the compromise plan, but a range of options will be analyzed in environmental review, including proposals developed by conservationists and fishermen. There will be further opportunities for public input at Commission hearings over the coming months, with a final decision expected later this year 
“The compromise plan is a step in the right direction, but there is still room for improvement,” said Marcela Gutierrez of WildCoast. “By strengthening the protections around Palos Verdes and south La Jolla, we can better meet the science and increase benefits for fish and fishermen.”
For more information on the Marine Life Protection Act, visit, or


A legacy of underwater parks

January 8th, 2010

Last week Good Times Santa Cruz profiled several UC Santa Cruz professors, including Peter Raimondi, professor and chair of ecology and evolutionary biology.

Professor Raimondi serves on the Scientific Advisory Team that helps guide implementation of the Marine Life Protection Act, informing decisions about what areas should be protected to balance conservation with continued fishing access.  Since the Central Coast network of marine protected areas was established in 2007, he has also been monitoring the ocean sanctuaries to see how well they work.

He says in the article: “The MLPA project is really exciting for me not only because it has a scientific component but because it is going to leave a legacy. A legacy of these national parks in the sea.”

In November, Raimondi and his fellow biologists published a study in the scientific journal PLoS ONE which showed that marine reserves help boost fish populations outside of their boundaries, improving fishing conditions in nearby open areas.



Pitch in to protect the ocean

January 5th, 2010

The future of California’s coastal economy depends on sound management of ocean resources, and conservationists and anglers alike recognize the value of smart regulations and effective enforcement. For proof, look no further than two fledgling programs designed to support wildlife protection in California. 

The new Fish and Game Warden Stamp will help fund training and equipment for wardens.  The stamps cost $5, and can be purchased online or at regional licensing offices.  Please consider supporting the state's wildlife protection officers by buying and displaying a warden stamp.

Or, if you prefer to take a more active role, consider getting involved in a local group helping with outreach, education, and monitoring of California's land-based and underwater parks.

On the north coast, the latest region to undergo Marine Life Protection Act
planning, local volunteers have formed a sort of “neighborhood watch for the ocean.”  Mendo Ab Watch is a group of fishermen, divers and conservationists working with the Department of Fish and Game to ensure north coast resources are managed sustainably.


South coast plan has "something for everyone"

November 17th, 2009

The San Diego Union Tribune calls the marine protected area plan recommended by the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force "a good compromise."

The Task Force met on November 11 to finalize their recommendations after receiving more than 10,000 emails and hearing over ten hours of public comment.  This level of community participation shows how passionate southern Californians are about their coast and ocean--it's truly the region's most iconic attraction, and many local people rely on the sea's bounty to make a living.

The Blue Ribbon Task Force considered both the economy and environment when weighing options, and recommended a middle ground plan that balanced
the concerns of different user groups

In a November 17 editorial, the San Diego Union Tribune said the south coast plan "will be good for everyone in the long run if it allows our coastal bounty to grow and thrive."

And that is precisely what the marine protected area plan is designed to do.  By protecting biological hot spots like Naples Reef, south La Jolla, and Point Dume, it will help rebuild depleted fish populations and restore fragile ecosystems.


Investment banks for fish

November 12th, 2009

A new study by UC Santa Cruz biologists, published in the scientific journal PLos ONE, shows that marine reserves can restock waters outside of their boundaries, improving fishing conditions in nearby open areas. 

The biologists monitored 58 sites in Puerto Penasco, Mexico, on the
northern shore of the Gulf of California.
They found that baby fish born in marine reserves drifted along the coast, where they could be caught by local anglers. 

Study co-author Richard Cudney-Bueno describes marine reserves as investment banks for fish.  The more you invest in protecting big fertile fish (who produce exponentially more young--see graphic), the more interest you can collect as the babies disperse in ocean currents. 

He emphasized that the location of reserves is critical--you have to protect important feeding and breeding grounds in order to maximize returns.

Luckily, southern California's new marine protected area plan, unanimously approved by the governor-appointed Blue Ribbon Task Force on November 10, would create ocean sanctuaries where big fertile fish, and other plants and animals, can grow and multiply.

New MPAs Work PSA featuring Pierce Brosnan

October 9th, 2009

The effort to create a network of permanently protected areas off the foast of California is picking up steam. This new Public Service Announcement-- featuring some familiar Hollywood faces--tells the story of how California is creating a network of MPAs (Marine Protected Areas) along it's coast for one simple reason -- MPA work.

Over fifty nations around the world are now implementing MPAs as the primary means of protecting ocean wildlife. In this PSA a number of celebrities (Pierce Brosnan, John C. McGinley ("Scrubs"), Edie McClurg "Ferris Bueller's Day Off"), Gabby Reece (fashion model/professional volleyball player), Amy Smart ("The Butterfly Effect"), Christa Miller ("Scrubs"), Simon Helberg ("The Big Bang Effect") help send out the message that a new day has arrived for protecting the oceans because ... MPAs Work!

Please help us spread the word! Send the video to your family and friends!


South coast MPA proposals finalized this week

September 8th, 2009

South coast stakeholders are meeting today and tomorrow in Los Angeles to put the finishing touches on three alternative plans to protect coastal waters between Point Conception and the border with Mexico. The divers, anglers, surfers, business owners, and conservationists on the Regional Stakeholder Group have been divided into three teams--one represents primarily fishing interests, one is focused on conservation, and the third is a "middle ground" room that will work to find a compromise solution with cross-interest support.

As the marine protected area maps take shape, stakeholders are especially focused on key areas like Naples Reef in Santa Barbara and La Jolla in San Diego that provide great recreation, study, and conservation opportunities.

Members of the public are invited to attend the September 10 meeting and provide comments on the ocean protection plans under development. One community group, Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commision, has weighed in with an official resolution of support for the creation of marine protected areas offshore from Point Dume and Palos Verdes Peninsula.


South coast stakeholders finalize ocean protection plans

August 23rd, 2009

This month, the divers, anglers, conservationists, and business owners on the south coast regional stakeholder group are putting the finishing touches on ocean protection plans for Southern California. On September 9 and 10, they will meet in Los Angeles to hear public comments and finalize draft proposals for a network of marine protected areas that will stretch from Santa Barbara to the border with Mexico.

Stakeholders have been divided into three groups, representing fishing interests, conservationists, and a middle ground group representing a cross-section of the southern California community. The middle ground group has been asked to find common ground among different ocean users, and develop a compromise solution everyone can live with.

Each group will propose a network of marine protected areas designed to preserve sea life and habitats while leaving the vast majority of coastal waters open for fishing. The new protected areas are like underwater parks--they allow plants and animals to thrive while providing great recreation and study opportunities for people. 

To get involved, become a fan of the ocean on Facebook (, or send an email to supporting protection for your favorite dive or surf spot.


Cooperative enforcement ensures success of marine protected areas

August 9th, 2009

The Los Angeles Times reported today that poachers caught fishing in the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary were fined $10,000. The violators were caught by National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), with help from the California Department of Fish and Game and U.S. Coast Guard.

"This case is a primary example of what can be achieved through cooperative law enforcement efforts to protect our nation's natural marine resources," said Don Masters, special agent in charge of NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement, southwest division.


New ocean sanctuaries are good for fish and people

August 8th, 2009

The Sacramento Bee editorialized about California's new ocean health plan over the weekend. The editorial applauded the State Fish and Game Commission for their leadership in passing this visionary marine protected areas plan, and noted "these new sanctuaries will serve generations of Californians."

The Bee went on the explain, "these near-shore sanctuaries will help rebuild delicate reefs and kelp forests," and "recovery will help all fishermen and people who like to observe without "taking" marine life – such as scuba divers, kayakers and schoolchildren examining tide pools."