Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Marine Protected Areas

[Originally posted to MBA Student Oceanography Club (SOC)]

The last few months we have talked a lot about watersheds, culminating in our March field experience stenciling storm drains.  We now all know exactly why we should care about watersheds and waste water – because it FLOWS TO BAY!  Every little bit we do helps to guard the incredibly productive and diverse ecosystems within the bay, and adds to the protections already in place.

The federal government has designated the entire coastline from the San Francisco Bay to Cambria, including the entire Monterey Bay, as a National Marine Sanctuary.  This designation prevents mining, drilling, dumping waste, introducing non-native species, and other activities that might destroy or harm the habitats and wildlife present within the sanctuary.

Read more about the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary:  http://montereybay.noaa.gov/intro/welcome.html

The areas around the Monterey Penninsula and Elkhorn Slough are further protected by the California Marine Life Protection Act, which created a number of marine protected areas along the California coast.  State marine protected areas provide protections beyond those designated by the national marine sanctuary, and come in a number of flavors.

•    California State Marine Reserves, like Asilomar and the area between the Aquarium and Lover’s Point, prohibit all forms of habitat destruction and resource extraction.  Because this bars all fishing these reserves are often referred to as “no take” reserves, and provide the greatest protection from human activities.

•    State Marine Conservation Areas, like the water along Cannery Row and the area between Lover’s Point and Asilomar, allow certain uses, but restrict others.  Often this means that certain species or habitats are protected while fishing or extraction of other resources is allowed.

•    State Marine Parks, like Elkhorn Slough, are designated for recreational purposes (including fishing) but protect the area from commercial use.

Read more about the California Marine Life Protection Act: http://www.dfg.ca.gov/mlpa/pdfs/ccmpas_guide.pdf

So what are the benefits of all these protections?   Well, it turns out there are lots.  For one, excluding industrial uses such as mining and drilling protects our coastline from oil spills and other forms of industrial pollution.  Protections from fishing allow harvested fish numbers to increase, keeping the ecosystem intact.  There is also growing evidence that the effects of marine reserves extend beyond their boundaries.  Fish protected from fishing grow larger and have more young, which spillover into surrounding waters, and may enhance fishing outside the reserves.

Read more about the benefits of reserves: http://www.piscoweb.org/files/images/pdf/SMR_US_LowRes.pdf

These protections will help ensure that the natural resources we enjoy today will not be forgotten in the future: