Today, Enric Sala, National Geographic explorer-in-residence and Ocean Conservancy board member, writes on the importance of these underwater parks to California’s ecology and economy. Writing in the National Geographic NewsWatch blog, Sala notes that protection in Cabo Pulmo National Park in Baja California, Mexico, resulted in increases in fish size and quantity “more than four-fold with a decade of protection.” These results bode well for California. He continues:
A June 6 decision to implement marine protected areas in northern California establishes the final piece of the state’s network of marine protected areas spanning the length of its 1,100-mile coast. This network includes ecological hot spots like the Farallon Islands, Point Reyes, Monterey Bay and La Jolla reef. A pilot system of ocean protected areas established at the Channel Islands off the Santa Barbara coast in 2003 is already resulting in more and bigger lobsters and healthier kelp forests.
Over time, the rewards will continue to multiply. And not just for the fish. Marine protected areas are great for kayakers, divers, bird-watchers, surfers and for fishermen. By protecting areas that fish, sea otters, birds and other ocean wildlife need to feed and breed, sea life can recover. And because fish don’t understand boundary lines, fishermen working in nearby waters reap the benefits too. They are able to catch more and bigger fish than in areas that don’t neighbor reserves.
Let me put it into economic terms: We have historically treated the ocean like a debit account where we keep making withdrawals and never make a deposit. Marine protected areas convert key areas of the ocean into savings accounts. By safeguarding the principal, these areas provide returns for us in terms of social, economic and ecological benefits. And because bigger, older fish have more babies, providing refuge for some of these “big mommas” allows us to reap the benefits of compound interest.
The south end of the new Double Cone marine reserve on California's Lost Coast. Credit: Kip Evans
It wasn’t until about 3 a.m. that the realization finally sunk in: We’d done it. Not only had the North Coast marine protected area network been formally adopted by the Fish and Game Commission, but California would soon be home to the first comprehensive series of such protections in the nation.
I thought of the rockfish and abalone, sea lions and whales, too many seabirds to name, and how some of those creatures now have safe places to live, breed and thrive. All the hours in meeting rooms, the debates and discussions, all the thousands of emails and phone calls had actually paid off.
California made history June 6 when the Fish and Game Commission voted unanimously to adopt a network of marine protected areas for northern California. I want to take this chance to thank you for taking action on this issue; without your messages to the Commission, we may never have gotten here.
The vote marks the completion of the United States’ first statewide network of underwater parks, and a huge step toward long-term environmental and economic health for the coast. As Commissioner Richard Rogers put it: “We are poised to return California’s marine resources to the sustainable abundance we all once enjoyed.” Continue reading »
A diver explores the kelp forests off Anacapa Island, part of the Channel Islands National Park. Credit: Heal The Bay flickr stream
Whatever one’s favorite ocean-touring activity, marine protected areas provide an enhanced experience. California is poised to be the first state to have an offshore network of reserves and conservation areas, places set aside with limited or no fishing, where habitat is protected and the creatures who live there can thrive. Here are five ways to get to know the ocean park near you – or help you make the most out of a vacation destination!
Grab aKayak and paddle out. Get some exercise while letting the mind relax, observe and savor the moment. My favorite part of kayaking is searching for shadows that lead to mysterious caves and crevices. Kayaking is also a great way to look out for whales in the distance – Grey whales migrate from December through May, and humpbacks can be seen in summer and fall.
Tour by paddleboard. From your vantage point, you can see far out toward the horizon, but still get up close and personal with what’s right around you. Flashes of color reveal schools of fish. Sea otters float by in beds of kelp, cuteness personified. The steady rhythmic paddling always puts me in a more relaxed state of mind. Continue reading »