At the beginning of May 2010 California’s underwater state park system in the U.S. was expanded. As a result, well-known north central coastal areas like Point Reyes Headlands, Bodega Head, the Farallon Islands, and Fitzgerald Marine Reserve are now more professionally protected than in the past. The measure is part of a new conservation regime, in which the state is creating a series of marine protected areas. They stretch from Point Arena to Pigeon Point.
The final result will be well-protected marine parks which are part of a statewide network. One of the key concepts is multiple use: new protected areas will not only restore sea life and habitats but also leave nearly 90 percent of the coast open for fishermen. The rebuilding of fisheries is included in the goals.
Kelp forests, canyons and reefs, where fish and shellfish feed and breed, are habitats of emphasis of the ocean conservation plan being applied. In many cases, the new sanctuaries, in which these habitats are located, are close to land-based parks. This facilitates their use for recreation and education.
Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) requires the California state to develop a science-based system of marine protected areas. California is the first state in the U.S. to have this kind of comprehensive resource management plan. The latest implementation phases are important steps towards full statewide implementation by 2011. Local conservationists, divers, surfers, scientists, fishermen and business leaders take part in the process.
At the February 2010 Conference of American Association for the Advancement of Sciences several new marine protection studies were released. They confirmed the effectiveness of marine parks, mentioning success stories from the Channel Islands of California and the Great Barrier Reef of Australia. The studies show that ocean habitat protection benefits both fish and fishermen.
The new marine protected areas of California will be monitored by professionals. Scientists will observe the ecological developments as part of the most ambitious study ever done of California’s coastal waters. A great deal of work will be carried out underwater.