Category Archives: The Real World

MPA’s FTW

Translation: Marine Protected Area’s For the Win.

Congratulations Southern California! You are about to become a little more awesome. How is this even possible you might ask? With precious commodities such as Disneyland, unrivaled Mexican food this side of the border, and Real California cheese it seems unlikely that the land of sand and sunny could get any better. However, as we bring in the New Year So Cal can add yet another tick to the “This is Why I’m Hot” List.

Let’s break it down shall we…

January 1st, 2012, as apart of the Marine Life Protection Act initiated by the California Fish and Game Commission in 1999, over 37 new/modified Marine Protected Area’s (MPA) were put into place from Point Conception (Santa Barbara County) all the way down to the U.S./Mexican Border. Bringing the grand total of MPA’s in the SoCal region to 50, covering an area of approximately 354 square miles. Dang.

Now as I jump for joy telling all of my friends why this makes California so awesome, this news is more often than not received with blank looks and awkward facial expressions. Why? Most people have no idea what I am talking about let alone know why they should care. So, in order to clear up some confusion and get everyone on the same page, let me take some time to shed light on the questions I have been getting. (Feel free to use this information in casual conversation to impress your friends and family with how smart you are.)

MPA 101:

I know it says 'national' and we are talking at the 'state' level, but it's cute so go with me on this one.

What is a MPA?

An MPA or Marine Protected Area is a designated region of marine or estuarine habitat that is protected and enforced under law. Various areas have different protections and in California waters there are three types of MPAs:

  1. State Marine Reserves (SMR): no extractive activities are allowed here, such as fishing or the harvesting of kelp; Science-ing is okay, but only with a permit.
  2. State Marine Parks: no commercial take here (Sorry, all those fans playing “Deadliest Catch” out there will need to keep it outside the boundaries from now on)
  3. State Marine Conservation Areas (SMCA): does not allow for some combination of commercial and/or recreational take

Why are they put into place?

The California coast is over 1,100 miles long and littered with human activities. Coastal development, water pollution, fishing you name it, we do it. Unfortunately, you can imagine such actions leave marine ecosystems and the life contain in quite a predicament. “In California, the State Legislature found that these activities have the potential to stress marine ecosystems, impact habitat, and threaten biological diversity. (CA Department of Fish and Game)” So if there is to be any hope that such activities do not completely decimate marine habitats and biodiversity, MPA’s are put into place. Seems pretty easy right…just put them into place….wrong. Keep reading.

How do they get put into place?

So let’s look at all the peeps who use coastal waters. Fisherman Fish. Scientists Science. Environmentalists…do crazy things we don’t always understand to help save the oceans in their own unique way, but ultimately they have a good heart. Recreationally, there is a lot going on, between skinny dipping, surfing, boating, and all that other fun stuff. Oh and let’s not forget the animals who actually LIVE there.

Essentially what I am trying to get across is that there are many different interests to consider when setting up such areas. So things get a little…well…complicated. Luckily, the wonderful State of California realized whose interests weren’t really being looked out for (Can you guess whose?) and decided to do something about it.

(Did I mention CA is awesome yet?)

Hence, the Marine Life Protection Act:

“ ES.2.2 Marine Life Protection Act

In 1999, the California state legislature approved and the governor signed the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA; codified at Sections 2850 through 2863 of the Fish and Game Code, references herein to specific  portions of the MLPA refer to these code sections). In determining the need for the act the legislature held that “California’s marine protected areas (MPAs) were established on a piecemeal basis rather than according to a coherent plan and sound scientific guidelines. Many of these MPAs lack clearly defined purposes, effective management measures, and enforcement. As a result, the existing array of MPAs creates the illusion of protection while falling far short of  its potential to protect and conserve living marine life and habitat” (MLPA Section 2851).

In enacting the MLPA, the legislature declared that “California’s extraordinary marine biological diversity is a vital asset to the state and nation. The diversity of species and ecosystems found in the state’s ocean waters is important to public health and well-being, ecological health, and ocean-dependent industry” (MLPA Section 2851(b)). The legislature also held that coastal development, water pollution, and other human activities threaten the health of marine habitat and the biological diversity found in California’s ocean waters. New technologies and demands have encouraged the expansion of fishing and other activities to formerly inaccessible marine areas that once  recharged nearby fisheries. As a result, ecosystems throughout the state’s ocean waters are being altered, often at a rapid rate (MLPA Sections 2851(c) and (d)).

The MLPA directs the state to redesign California’s system of MPAs to function as a network in order to: increase coherence and effectiveness in protecting the state’s marine life and habitats, marine ecosystems, and marine natural heritage, as well as to improve recreational, educational, and study opportunities provided by marine ecosystems subject to minimal human disturbance (Department 2008).

Six goals guide the development of MPAs in the MLPA planning process, codified at MLPA Section 2853(b), including:

1. Protect the natural diversity and abundance of marine life, and the structure, function, and integrity of marine ecosystems.

2. Help sustain, conserve, and protect marine life populations, including those of economic value, and rebuild those that are depleted.

3. Improve recreational, educational, and study opportunities provided by marine ecosystems that are subject to minimal human disturbance, and manage these uses in a manner consistent with protecting biodiversity.

4. Protect marine natural heritage, including protection of representative and unique marine life habitats in California waters for their intrinsic values.

5. Ensure California’s MPAs have clearly  defined objectives, effective management measures, and adequate enforcement and are based on sound scientific guidelines.

6. Ensure the state’s MPAs are designed and managed, to the extent possible, as a network.”

(CA Marine Life Protection Act, Department of Fish and Game)

So after numerous long, long meetings, delegation and people putting in their interests and opinions, compromises were made and boundaries were decided.

Where will they be located?

With 8 new State Marine reserves and 29 new State Marine Conservation Areas, not to mention the areas already protected, the list and all their separate regulations is too long to put here (and there are different regulations for each area, so be advised). Plus it would just mess up the layout of my blog and be way more confusing. So here is the link with the areas both new and old and their regulations/definitions: www.dfg.ca.gov/mlpa/scmpas_list

On this website, you may also find a blow up of the picture below so you don’t have to get your microscopes out to read it. However, if you want to, the use of scientific instruments to make everyday life a little more awesome is fully condoned here.

CHECK THIS OUT: For the truly tech savvy ones out there with all of your smart phone-ness. There is now MPA Mobile. I believe this is an APP that will give you all the necessary information right on your little iPhone including: Where the boundaries are, what you can/cannot take from the MPA you are in, and other pertinent information.

Why should I care?

#1 Reason to Care: You don’t want to pay the major fines/get arrested for taking from a Marine Protected Area.

But for those of you who need more than that….

If you’re an angler, you may already know about such areas and most definitely care because now you have to move your favorite fishing spot. Sorry guys I know it sucks, but remember there were compromises made on all ends. Such regulations save the very fish you may make a living off of, however, with time, stocks will increase and the bounty will spill over the lines and be better then ever. Just give it time.

If you’re an environmentalist, congrats, this is one less thing you have to picket for.

If you’re a scientist, this should bring you great hope. These MPA’s were put into place in certain designated areas as a result of many years of hard work and research performed by numerous scientists up and down the coast. This is living proof that science does work and that it can be used to make a difference, so keep up the good work.

If you’re everyone else, and you don’t think that this will affect you. Think again. Biodiversity and costal habitats acrossCaliforniaand globally are being threatened now more than ever before. Such protections allow decimated areas to recover and flourish for all to enjoy. My recommendations: Go out there and enjoy it. Care about it. Learn about it and realize why it so important for us to save. I can’t give you a definite reason to care, everyone has there own.

Where can I find more information/get involved/questions/comments/concerns/all of the above?

Marine Life Protection Act: www.dfg.ca.gov/mlpa

Marine Protected Area Literature: www.dfg.ca.gov/mlpa/science1

Frequently Asked Questions: www.dfg.ca.gov/mlpa/faqs

Get INVOLVED!: www.dfg.ca.gov/mlpa/publicinvolvement_sc

Mail:

MPA Project

c/o California Department of Fish and Game

1812Ninth Street

Sacramento,CA95814

E-mail: MPAComments@dfg.ca.gov

*Or just leave your question in the comment box and I will do my best to find you an answer as soon as possible.

DJ’s advice to the peeps: Don’t forget to tell all your friends. Not only will you sound super smart, but homies don’t let homies get tickets for taking from a Marine Protected Area. These regions are now enforced by California state law and DFG wardens are out and about. So spread the word and spread the love.

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Disclaimer (Just in case): We here at DJ’s Locker look only to INFORM our readers to the best and most accurate of our knowledge of scientific happenings and news from the watery realm. We are in no way responsible for what you do/do not do with the information provided here. As an individual YOU are responsible to know the laws and abide by them. So when looking for a scapegoat in court because you got caught with your pole where it shouldn’t have been, don’t come looking here.

–The Locker

To protect it, we can’t collect it.

Unarguably, the Bluefin tuna has become one of the most endangered species in our oceans today, suffering from depleting numbers as a consequence of destructive and poorly regulated fisheries. Comprising one of the top levels of the food chain, the loss of this majestic predator could bring about disastrous repercussions. This video, artistically compiled by the How to Save the Bluefin group, puts it all well into perspective.

Their prediction that the last bluefin may be removed come the end of 2012, is a harrowing one.Yet, they are still fished, still taken from the ocean, still placed on your dinner plate. Think about it. Remove the demand and the supply may actually have a chance of recovering.

The wave of change.

Mr. Whitey

Congratulations California, you finally got it together. Yesterday morning Governor Jerry Brown signed bill AB376 (check it out) into law, thereby banning the possession, trade and sale of shark fins in Californian waters. Along with Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and Guam, we were previously the largest importers of shark fins outside of Asia bringing in an estimated 570 metric tons of shark fins in 2009. Now with finning banned in all of these states, this is a  great day to add to a momentous year for sharks all around the world. A win like this just goes to show, that scientists and people who care about the oceans can truly make a difference.  This brought a big smile to my face while drinking my coffee this morning.

However, my elated mood was quickly dampened as I started to read some of the comments that certain people were posting. For instance…

“Thanx gov brown,you just raised up the price for shark fins,And when a shark bites off the arm or leg of one of your kids,Then maybe you will think twice before signing another bill like this,You are a fool.”

“I have been eating sharks for over 40 years.no one is going to make me stop catching and eating them.everything in the world has mercury in it and no one is dying from it.Go back to tending your sheeple.Sharks dont need to be protected.People need to be protected from the gov idiots that are messing up the USA”

“i’t won’t do much..CA isn’t the biggest consumer in shark fin’s. Most chinese resturant don’t use authentic shark fin’s anyways its way to expensive and not alot of people buy it in resturants.
Also i don’t think the ban will do anything much since im sure if you go to Chinatown you will be able to find some even if it’s banned.
The biggest consumer are people in China & Hong Kong.”

“This bill will do NOTHING, touchy feely worthless paperwork…..”

Really people? Really?

Okay, so I don’t really care about your political views. That’s your own business. And as much power as politicians may have over issues such as these, it’s more than just a political issue. I know we live in a country where you are entitled to your opinions and you constitutionally hold a right to voice such opinions, but ignorant, uneducated comments such as these must be addressed.

When it comes to sharks, perhaps the biggest threat surrounding them is fear. Thanks to Hollywood thrillers such as Jaws, Deep Blue Sea and numerous other misinterpretations of shark behavior (some could even argue Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week” is included with these), the public perception of sharks is that they are man-eating, cold-hearted killers.

Let’s take a look at the stats shall we. We are now dealing with the annihilation of not just a couple of species, but of an entire branch (not to mention one of the oldest branches) on the phylogenetic tree of life. According to the International Shark Attack File kept by the Florida Museum of Natural History, there were 79 shark attacks globally in 2010, 6 of which were fatal. I am not belittling this number in any way, it is unfortunate yes, but it is without doubt that these were accidental as we are not quite on the menu for sharks (contrary to popular belief, they are not out to get us). However, if you flip the coin and compare it to the roughly 73 million sharks that are slaughtered annually, you must question,

“Who should be afraid of who?”

For those out there who don’t really like dealing with numbers, here is a nice visual from a documentary of which I highly recommend watching. In an effort to save sharks by showing the world what is going on in oceanic waters beyond the public’s sight, filmmaker Rob Stewart created “Sharkwater.” Although at parts it might be a little cheesy, it depicts a telling and true tale about the battle sharks are facing and losing globally.

Trailer:

Along with a clip that I am still unable to watch all the way through:

Bottom line. Sharks must be and can be protected. They are top-predators in the ocean for a reason. They maintain the balance and currently the balance is being massively upset. These beautifully powerful and ecologically essential creatures are facing massive extinction and it is at our hands. Legislation such as the bill passed yesterday and numerous others that have been put into action this year around the world, DO HELP. They are not, however, the end all be all. We must change our habits, our perspective and our mentality. Don’t be ignorant in thinking that this is a foreign problem and will never affect you. Believe me, if sharks populations cannot rebound from these atrocities, it will affect all of us. Educate yourselves. Educate your friends. Be the change.

Finally to leave you with this, a recent PSA created by WildAid and NBA all-star Yao Ming really puts it all into prospective:

For more information, please visit:

SRI

FLMNH

NOAA

NeilHammer.com

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Sources: Businessweek, KQED News, The Sacromento Bee, FLMNH

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