California Marine Life Protection Act
Michael Ellis

The near shore and intertidal region of the California coast is one of the richest in the world, probably exceeded only by coral reefs. California’s “ocean economy” –activities that derive at least some value from the sea – contributes $43 billion annually, more than the state’s agricultural sector. Recognizing this the State enacted the California Marine Life Protection Act in 1999 to protect and enhance our ocean environment. Last fall the Fish and Game Commission established the first section of the statewide network of marine protected areas between Santa Barbara and Half Moon Bay. The next area under consideration is goes from Half Moon Bay to Pt. Arena.

There are three different proposals under consideration on how to implement this important act. All share some important similarities but two of them provide crucial habitat protection.

Among the many highlights common to these proposals are protection for iconic places such as Pt Arena, the Farallon Islands, and Pt Reyes, but it is also important to protect the nearshore habitats such as Duxbury Reef in Marin and Saunders Reef in Mendocino County. These two biologically diverse areas especially need protection due to years of heavy fishing – their rockfish populations deserve a chance to recover to their former abundance. If they are not included, California’s rich ocean heritage is not adequately protected.

A Blue Ribbon Task force meets in April to recommend one of the three proposals to the State Fish and Game Commission.  They should choose the strongest possible option for the marine environment of Northern California.
 
More than one hundred years ago, our country had the foresight to develop a national park system. Some call it the best idea America ever had. Today, in California, we take places like Yosemite and Kings Canyon for granted and no one thinks they’re too big. But there are Yosemite’s and other treasures just off our shores in the marine environment. And now it is our turn to match the vision and wisdom of our forebearers and create a new legacy for our children and grandchildren.
 
With a Perspective, I’m Michael Ellis.

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November 8, 2010