Friday, April 13, 2007

California protects ocean ecosystems


Marine Protected Areas are becomming a tool of choice for conserving ocean ecosystems. Today, California joined the Northwest Hawaiian Islands as home to the first solid networks of MPAs in the US.

Along with the overfishing ban passed recently in the US Congress, these MPAs promise to restore ocean ecosystem health.

A key role of MPAs is to provide unfished areas to demonstrate what our oceans might be like without fishing. That's something worth knowing. Too many ocean areas are sadly depleted, and for some places there is nobody left alive who knows what's gone missing. Ask a young person in southern California whether they've ever seen an abalone in a tide pool.

The California Fish and Wildlife Commission voted this morning to create a network of Marine Protected Areas along California's central coast. Some areas will ban all fishing and others will allow some types of fishing or resource use (e.g. kelp harvest).

This after hearing from fishermen, scientists, conservationists, divers, boaters, and other concerned people. The lengthy processes sought to balance the interests of all concerned, and everybody was forced to accept something other than their preferences.

Thanks to the Commissioners for their courageous action, and thanks to Republican Governor Schwarzenegger for his bold leadership of this process. Conservation need not be a partisan issue; this Republican governor has done more for ocean health than his Democratic predecessor, Gray Davis.

You'll read about this elsewhere tomorrow, but you saw it here first!!

6 comments:

Brett F said...

The US commercial fishing industry has taken a lot of steps in the last 10-20 years to curb overfishing (limited entry, vessel buy-backs, etc.), and results have been great. There are no fisheries inside of 3 miles that are currently overfished, and all stocks are healthy or recovering. Additionally, MPA's in California are far from a new thing. There are already 80+ marine reserves already in place that are in someway restricted, including 25+ no-take zones. With our fishery management that we have we are seeing results. Additionally, MPA's do nothing about the foreign longliners and poachers on the open seas, which are the real problem. By further restricting US commercial fisheries, all we do is push our demand for seafood to foreign, unregulated fisheries. We are basically telling the world "we support overfishing, just not in our own waters". Just like the timber industry. We shouldn't cut any trees down here, but it's ok to completely clearcut other countries.
You say that the lengthy processes sought to balance the interests of all concerned, and everybody was forced to accept something other than their preferences???? Hardly true. The lengthy process was politically motivated, and voices that were skeptical about the MPA's were completely ignored.

Mark Powell said...

Brett,
You suggest everything is fine, but check out NOAA's annual report to congress, there are many stocks still overfished. You suggest MPAs are everywhere, but that's simply wrong. And blaming foreign longliners and poachers is lame, those excuses went out with the 200 mile limit in 1976. Sorry that conservation doesn't sit well with you, it's the wave of the future.

Mark

Brett F said...

I'm sorry that you interpreted my response as me not caring about conservation. I'm not really sure what I wrote to make you feel this way.
Wouldn't you agree that MPA's do nothing about foreign longliners and poachers? I'm confused by your response to this.
The point I meant to make was that there are quite a few MPA's already in existence (80+, in fact). I definitely did not suggest they were 'everywhere'.
Forgive me for not having the time to read your entire blog to fully understand your viewpoints, but do you believe in using the ocean as a resource, or would you favor completely shutting everything down completely?
The main point I meant to make in my previous posting was that the MPA process did not seek to balance the interests of all concerned. MPA's will potentially severely restrict very responsible fisheries on the west coast, including dungeness crab, black rock fish, sardines, halibut, pink shrimp, spot prawn, albacore, and one could really argue for salmon, black cod, lingcod, and many more. If these fish don't come from responsible fisheries like these, folks will continue to get their seafood from truly overfished and unregulated areas.
Please don't interpret this that I don't think there are any problems, I just don't thing MPA's are the answer to the problems, as they seem to be, in many ways, designed to throw the baby out with the bath water.

Mark Powell said...

MPA can exclude foreign or US longliners, and often make it easy to identify poachers since legal fishermen avoid the area.

Blaming US fishery woes on foreign longliners is silly, that's an outdated complaint. Where US fish are in trouble we have only ourselves to blame.

I believe in truly sustainable use of fish and other resources. That doesn't necessarily mean MSY as calculated by an old-style model.

To me, you seem to be saying things are fine with US and California management, and I simply disagree.

Just having 80+ MPAs doesnt' mean much, unless one knows how big they are and what is protected. Stopping oil drilling is good, but fishing can be a problem also and most sanctuaries don't restrict fishing.

Being anti-MPA is silly, as is bieng pro-MPA. MPAs are a tool and the application to a specific situation is what determines whether the tool is appropriate.

Brett F said...

Mark,
Ok, enough about foreign longliners as they don't apply to MPA's. My point was that MPA's do nothing to solve that problem. That's all.

I never blamed US fisheries on foreign longliners. They're just a problems with our oceans that I'm opinionated about. Perhaps I never should have mentioned it. It really has nothing to do with MPA's since they're not a problem inside of 3 miles anyway.

Again, I apologize about not being completely familiar with your viewpoints, but what is the 'new style' method of MSY versus the 'old style' method of MSY? I guess I was taught that this is an ongoing process...as is with most science.

As far as you saying that I think all things are ok with US and California management, I'll repeat myself...Please don't interpret this that I don't think there are any problems, I just don't thing MPA's are the answer to the problems, as they seem to be, in many ways, designed to throw the baby out with the bath water.

I couldn't agree more with your statement that MPA's should be a tool. Its the application to a specific situation where the argument for additional California MPA's is lost.

What is it that California MPA's are doing? I'm not looking for a explanation of an MPA or there purpose in general. I get that. Just how they relate to California and its fisheries.

Mark Powell said...

Read and comment on this subject in a new blogfish lead story.

Blogfish listens, and a sincere commenter asks why MPAs (ocean refuges) in California? Big question, here's a short version of the answer.

Most of California's natural reefs have very few big fish. According to Milton Love and his colleagues: "High fishing pressure on most rocky outcrops in central and southern California has led to many habitats almost devoid of large fishes." This is a problem that needs a solution. Big rockfish are important for reproduction, and the term BOFFFs was invented to describe the special value of big old fat female (rock)fish.

What to do? These habitats are dominated by Sebastes rockfish, which are generally slow-growing, long-lived fish that congregate near rocky reefs. It is much more efficient to protect these fish by closing some areas to fishing. As a more difficult alternative, overall fishing rates would have to be drastically reduced if lower catch limits alone were used to allow some of these fish to escape capture year after year and grow big.

It's true that the biggest problems in California are offshore in deeper water, but some nearshore fish are also experiencing heavy fishing pressure and localized depletion if not overall depletion. With fishing now restricted in deeper water, increased pressure is occurring in the nearshore area. If we don't protect some areas now, the nearshore area will be the next great crisis.

Basically, we need some refuges where fish can grow and reproduce unmolested. They aren't perfect, because fish move, but they work on land for creatures that move. Ducks Unlimited has had great success protecting migratory waterfowl by protecting some critical habitats, even though the birds move and are hunted elsewhere during part of their lives. It's a practical, commonsense idea that works even for migratory animals like ducks and duck hunters are among the strongest supporters (are THE strongest supporters perhaps).

Are you a duck hunter, Brett F? If so, then thank the refuges. If not, then ask a duck hunter about the value of refuges.

Besides, do you really need to fish everywhere? If you can't catch everything you want in 90% of the ocean, why do you think the remaining 10% will satisfy you?