Ocean Updates - February 2008
February 26, 2008
California is currently in the process of establishing Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) along its coast, and especially in the North Central Coast.
In 2003, a network of twelve MPAs was established at the Channel Islands in the state waters around the islands. Monitoring data from 2002-2007 by scientists from the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans (PISCO) and other institutions was presented earlier this month. They showed that there has been a significant increase in the size and abundance of spiny lobsters within the protected areas, which are essential to successful reproduction in this valuable fishery. In addition, no economic crises have occurred since the establishment of the MPAs; in fact, sportfishing and commercial landings for some of the largest fisheries in the Islands have increased. I think this presents a very encouraging account of the potential impact that MPAs can have on our stretch of coast – at Point Reyes and beyond.
In other news, researchers from Oregon State University who have been studying the phenomenon of the low-oxygen dead zones off the Oregon coast have reviewed all available ocean data records and concluded that these anoxic events that have plagued the Northwest coast since 2002 are unprecedented in the last 60 years. Low-oxygen conditions occur after large phytoplankton blooms start sinking down the water column and bacterial decomposition of the sinking phytoplankton suck out the oxygen from the water. In these low-oxygen conditions, other marine organisms cannot survive, thus creating a “dead-zone” in waters renowned for their Dungeness crab and fat rockfish. Francis Chan, Jane Lubchenco and other researchers who authored this recent Science paper link this phenomenon to global warming, which causes stronger winds at the Pacific coast that would draw up deep water nutrients to the surface, causing greater phytoplankton blooms. The story is complicated – since ecosystems are complicated – as these high nutrient zones off the California and Oregon coast are exactly what makes this region particularly special and productive for fisheries. But too much of a good thing is often detrimental, as in this case off the Oregon coast.
February 6, 2008
Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Update
As many of you know, California is currently in the process of proposing Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the Point Reyes Area. Thirty-two regional stakeholders representing diverse interests are working together to develop an array of MPAs that maximizes conservation, while attempting to minimize economic and recreational impacts to those who work and play on the ocean. The MLPA is a historic opportunity to protect our ocean heritage, and will have large positive ramifications for Point Reyes' nearshore ecosystem.
An important part of the process is public input, and the stakeholders have made many changes to MPA placement in response to public comments. On Monday and Tuesday, the MLPA had public workshops in Petaluma and Gualala, respectively, from 6 p.m. - 9 p.m. At the Petaluma meeting, sixteen out of thirty-two Regional Stakeholder Group (RSG) members showed up, along with one Science Advisory Team (SAT) member, our very own Sarah Allen. Total public participation at the Petaluma meeting, by my estimate, was 60-70 people, which seemed to exceed the expectations of the MLPA Initiative team.
At the meeting, there was a broad overview of the MLPA processes, followed by breakout groups divided by region and interest. There were many lively discussions on the proposed marine protected areas, with many voices heard from across the board: conservationists, recreational and commercial fishermen, abalone divers, students from the California Maritime Academy, among many others.
There will be one more public workshop tonight at Pacifica, from 6 p.m. - 9 p.m.
For more information, please visit the MLPA website: http://www.dfg.ca.gov/mlpa
I'll be sending out short MLPA updates and information on recent ocean research every few weeks. Please contact Jessica Luo if you would like more information.