California Fish and Game Commission Gives Final Approval for South Coast Marine Protected Areas

Contacts:
Adrianna Shea, Fish and Game Commission, (916) 508-5262
Jordan Traverso, DFG Communications, (916) 654-9937

The California Fish and Game Commission (Commission) adopted regulations to create a new suite of marine protected areas (MPAs) in Southern California. At a Commission meeting in Santa Barbara today, the regulations were adopted as part of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA), which requires California to reexamine and redesign its system of MPAs with the goals to, among other things, increase the effectiveness of MPAs in protecting the state’s marine life and habitats, marine ecosystems and marine natural heritage.

Informed by recommendations generated through a two-year public planning process, the regulations will create 36 new MPAs encompassing approximately 187 square miles (8 percent) of state waters in the study region. Approximately 116 square miles (4.9 percent) have been designated as no-take state marine reserves (82.5 square miles/3.5 percent) and no-take state marine conservation areas (33.5 square miles/1.4 percent), with the remainder designated as state marine conservation areas with different take allowances and varying levels of protection. In addition to approving the MPA regulations, the Commission also certified the environmental impact report prepared pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act.

The public planning process for the south coast region, from Point Conception in Santa Barbara County to the California border with Mexico, began in July 2008 and included more than 50 days of meetings with formal public comment held for a 64-member Regional Stakeholder Group, a Science Advisory Team and a Blue Ribbon Task Force appointed by the Secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency. In addition, greater than 12,000 written public comments were submitted through the regulatory and environmental review processes to help inform recommendations on south coast region MPAs.

The California Department of Fish and Game, the lead agency charged with managing the state’s marine resources, will be responsible for implementing the MLPA program which will include enforcement, education, monitoring and research activities. The south coast MPA regulations are anticipated to go into effect in mid 2011 after appropriate filings with the Office of Administrative Law and the Secretary of State.

The south coast study region is the third of five study regions to complete the planning process under the MLPA. Once implemented, the south coast MPAs will join the MPAs currently in place from the central and north central coast study regions to form a network ranging approximately 875 miles from the California border with Mexico to Alder Creek near Point Arena in Mendocino County. The Commission will receive recommendations for the north coast study region from the north coast blue ribbon task force in February which will mark the start of the formal regulatory process and planning is under way to develop the planning process for San Francisco Bay, the fifth and final study region.

The existing MPAs in the northern Channel Islands, which encompass an additional 168 square miles and 7 percent of state waters in the study region were not modified as part of this decision.

A map of the decisions made today can be viewed at www.dfg.ca.gov/mlpa/pdfs/scmpas121510.pdf.