Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Turning the tide in Southern California waters

In an effort to restore diminishing ocean life, a state task force will be deciding on marine preserves for the region. Maximum protections would be benefit everyone.

October 22, 2009

In a depleted ocean, marine preserves successfully restore life to the sea. The populations of fish and other animals and plants increase dramatically in these zones where fishing and certain other activities are banned or tightly restricted. They all grow bigger too.

There are more than 4,500 such protected ocean areas around the world, and now it's Southern California's turn. A state law passed in 1999 directed the Department of Fish and Game to establish a network of marine preserves to protect rapidly diminishing ocean life. That has been completed for two sections of Central California, and today a task force will meet in Long Beach to vote on which areas need various levels of protection from Point Conception to the Mexican border.

The task force has three maps to consider, and at a quick glance, they look remarkably similar. All depict a patchwork of small, isolated areas, most colored blue or red. The latter represents the highest level of protection, banning all commercial or sport fishing. Most of the designated areas contain particular features that make rich homes for ocean life, such as kelp beds, reefs or underwater canyons. One map represents the fishing groups' preferences, one the conservationists', and one is a political compromise between the two.

As these panels have done in the past, the task force might mix and match elements from the maps. But its selections should lean heavily toward the most protective scenario. It is no secret that the size and populations of fish have been falling off dramatically here and in many places around the world. Though the patches of proposed preserves might look similar on the maps, a look beneath the water can reveal stark differences, such as an undersea canyon off the coast of Palos Verdes Peninsula that would receive full protection only under the conservationists' preferred option.

Marine preserves work. One study reviewed research covering 124 marine preserves in 29 nations. It found that the mass of animals and plants in the protected areas increased more than fivefold on average. The size of animals increased 28% and the number of species by 21%.

Though fishing groups have grown more accepting of the idea of preserving certain areas to restore the ocean's bounty, they understandably fret about the financial ramifications of severe restrictions. There is no denying the impact that marine preserves have on fishing in the short term. But fishing is already suffering from a decimated ecosystem in an ocean that has proved far from limitless; indeed, it is the region's most popular fishing spots that most need to rebound. There will be no decent fishing for anyone in years to come if the state fails to maximize protection now.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|