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 one of over 100 new underwater parks, which protect entire ecosystems at iconic coastal areas such as La Jolla, Point Reyes, and Point Lobos. To find an event near you, we’ve included a full schedule of events by region linked below.
It’s already been a busy month for California’s new underwater parks. 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. Continue reading »
Penny Harmeyer, Photo Contest 2011
California coasts—and all of the wildlife and people who enjoy them—are having “the best week ever.”
North Coast protected areas go into effect
Earlier this week, we celebrated the official completion of California’s statewide network of underwater parks—the first in the nation—as the North Coast marine protected areas went into effect.
As our own Jennifer Savage wrote, earlier in the week, this completed network marks the culmination of many years’ work, and protected areas will go a long way toward ensuring that ocean wildlife can thrive:
From the Oregon border to the Mexican border, the fish, birds, mammals and plants that depend on the dynamic habitats of the California coast now have a series of reserves and conservation areas that will allow their populations to recover where needed and protect them from depletion in the future. Not only is this good for the sea creatures, but a thriving ocean benefits all of California, from the fishermen whose livelihoods depend on healthy fisheries to all aspects of the state’s tourism-dependent economy …
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Dive in above for a closer look at California’s recently completed statewide network of underwater parks, some of the species they protect, and the people that are enjoying them.
Over 120 new parks now dot the California coast, protecting habitat-rich areas and iconic locations like Point Reyes, La Jolla, Point Lobos, and Fitzgerald Marine Reserve. These parks have the potential to restore abundance to depleted areas, and ensure a healthy ocean full of fish for the future.
Read our in-depth look at the nation’s first statewide network of underwater parks here.
The brand spanking new Double Cone Rock State Marine Conservation Area. Photo Credit: Kip Evans/Ocean Conservancy
Each day, many of us do small things we hope will benefit the ocean. We bring our own coffee mug. We pack our groceries into cloth bags. We wash our cloth napkins in cold water and buy our detergent in bulk. We bring our own to-go containers to the sushi spot – and we always order our fish based on what’s sustainable.
But the ocean is in trouble, and needs more than individual efforts for deepened protection. In California, efforts to restore the state’s depleted fish populations resulted in the Marine Life Protection Act, which passed the legislature back in 1999.
Today, the California network – the first in our nation – finally becomes complete: The North Coast marine protected areas go into effect. From the Oregon border to the Mexican border, the fish, birds, mammals and plants that depend on the dynamic habitats of the California coast now have a series of reserves and conservation areas that will allow their populations to recover where needed and protect them from depletion in the future. Not only is this good for the sea creatures, but a thriving ocean benefits all of California, from the fishermen whose livelihoods depend on healthy fisheries to all aspects of the state’s tourism-dependent economy – people come to California to see the ocean, be awed by the magnificence of migrating whales, explore the glowing tide pools along our beaches, delight in barbecuing lingcod, fresh-caught or bought off the docks.
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Credit: George H. Leonard
After a year-long campaign, the voters have spoken and President Obama will lead the country for another four years. But while the Electoral College was decisive, the popular vote was essentially split; as a group, the American people remain deeply divided over many critical issues facing our nation – from health care to national defense.
This week, while national attention has been focused on politics at the highest level, fishery managers along the west coast quietly demonstrated unity and leadership by voting to advance important protections for forage fish – the small and often forgotten fish that form the base of the ocean food web.
Why is this such a big deal? Because as in politics, fisheries management is often divisive and making progress requires leadership. When our officials take important steps to better protect the ocean we should give credit where credit is due. Continue reading »
Kelp aka Calico Bass. Source: CDFG; Photo credit: Rob Johnson
Identifying threats to sea life isn’t always easy. What you see is often far from the whole story. Take kelp bass and barred sand bass, for example. These particular fish tend to get together in the same places at the same time of year. When it comes to spawning, they’re very much creatures of habit.
This makes it easy if your goal is catching them. These fish also conveniently gather in the summer, when ocean and weather conditions are at their friendliest. You (and a few thousand others) could catch your limit and still be under the impression that these fish populations are healthy.
The problem is, at least in the case of the barred sand bass, we’ve discovered where almost all of the fish are. During the spawn, the overall size of the population doesn’t affect catch levels, due to advanced fish-finding technology and efficient fishing techniques. Managing fisheries often presents the problem of distinguishing fish availability from fish abundance. Sometimes there are plenty of fish around and none interested in biting. Here we find the opposite: we can find fish to catch even as their overall numbers are in real decline.
California’s Fish & Game Commission is considering making big changes to better protect some of the ocean’s smallest fish.
If you live in California, you can help us protect these vitally important fish. For the sake of our ocean, we must ensure these improvements get passed.
Known as “forage fish,” small schooling fish like sardines, anchovies and herring — play a crucial role in the ocean food web and in our overall economic well being.
Need proof? Look toward the seabirds, who suffer a drop in birth rates when forage fish populations drop too low. Look toward marine mammals like humpback whales, which weigh around 40 tons yet rely almost completely on forage fish to survive. Or ask the fishermen—commercial and recreational fishermen agree that big fish need little fish. The fish we like to catch and eat, like salmon, tuna and rockfish, all feed on forage fish.
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