A look at marine protected areas one year later
by Kendra Hartmann
May 10, 2013 | 3666 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
An image shows the south La Jolla state marine conservation area and the state marine reserve. 	Courtesy Department of Fish & Game
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Little more than one year after the marine protected areas (MPAs) off San Diego’s coast took effect, environmental groups met with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to discuss the latest developments in the effort to preserve California’s coastal ecosystems.

On April 30, representatives from San Diego Coastkeeper, WiLDCOAST and the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Law Enforcement Division held a public forum at Scripps Institution of Oceanography’s Sumner Auditorium highlighting a year-in-review of the MPAs and to unveil Coastkeeper’s latest addition to its MPA Watch program.

Situated along the coast from Point Conception in Santa Barbara County to the Tijuana River mouth at the Mexican border, the state’s network of 50 MPAs encompasses 11 in San Diego County, including the San Diego-Scripps state marine conservation area and the south La Jolla state marine reserve. Restrictions in the areas vary, from limitations on types of fishing to measures prohibiting taking of any marine resources.

Success of the MPAs has depended on the monitoring of activities in the areas, for which Coastkeeper developed the MPA Watch program, calling on volunteers to record the recreational uses they witness at the MPAs.

The collection of such data, however, has proven to be time consuming and tedious. So, Coastkeeper teamed up with a group of engineering students at UCSD and launched an app designed to make data collection by MPA Watch volunteers streamlined and simple by allowing them to enter data from their phones. The increased ease in monitoring, in turn, will hopefully contribute to the overall effectiveness of the MPAs — once public awareness becomes more wide-spread, that is, said Mike McNair, a central San Diego game warden for Department of Fish and Wildlife,

“The new marine reserves are still relatively new, so we’re still in the education phase,” said McNair, who said a fishing violation in a marine reserve is a misdemeanor. “Most of the people I talk to don’t even know that they are in a marine reserve.”

The challenge, he said, is that many people fishing in the reserves are people from different areas of the state, who aren’t in tune with what’s happening at the coast.

“It takes time,” he said.

Mallory Watson, community engagement coordinator at Coastkeeper, encouraged visitors to continue enjoying the MPAs, but she urged them to also take ownership in the underwater parks by helping preserve them.

“You should go out in the MPAs, re-create in them and enjoy them, but it’s also part of your responsibility to protect them,” said Watson. “Our MPA Watch program aims to work with people who are already there playing in the MPAs to help us gather data about them. Monitoring a small segment of an MPA on a regular basis can make a huge difference.”

For more information about the MPAs, the MPA Watch program or to get trained to use the MPA web-based app, visit www.sdcoastkeeper.org.
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