Staff at the California Department of Fish and Game is asking the public to provide information on fishing activities, resource status, and suggestions for marine protected areas along California's coast. This information will be used to reduce potential impacts as well as develop a plan for a more complete network of MPAs.
In April, DFG mailed letters to more than 7,000 commercial fishermen, recreational divers, skiff and shore anglers, and other constituents explaining a new approach to managing the existing array of more than 50 MPAs with state jurisdiction, and developing networks of MPAs in four regions of the state.
The Marine Life Protection Act of 1999 requires DFG staff to develop a plan for establishing networks of marine protected areas in California waters to protect habitats and preserve ecosystem integrity.
A series of public meetings starting in July will kick off the DFG's development of a plan for marine protected areas. DFG staff will use public meetings, e-mail, letters and faxes to help a team of scientists evaluate the effectiveness of existing marine protected areas, make recommendations for modifying those areas, and develop suggestions for establishing new areas.
"We are committed to seeking public input before we develop our draft plan for an economically and biologically viable network of marine protected areas," said DFG Marine Region Manager Patricia Wolf. "Knowing and understanding the expectations of constituents is critical in determining the most appropriate long-term objectives for a marine protected areas program."
DFG is the lead agency responsible for implementing the provisions of the MLPA. Marine protected areas are managed by a variety of natural resources departments, primarily DFG and the Department of Parks and Recreation under the state's Resources Agency.
The first round of public input, along with other fisheries and scientific information, will assist the MLPA planning team in developing the foundation for a draft plan. DFG is encouraging constituents to also provide information that will contribute to the location of their fishing activities by using DFG designated block numbers. This additional information will help scientists minimize the socioeconomic impacts on users in developing the draft plan for MPA networks.
Once the draft master plan has been developed, it will be available for public review and comment. Under the MLPA, DFG must submit a plan to the Fish and Game Commission by Jan. 1.
Prior to the long-range approach of the MLPA, state-managed marine protected areas along the coast have evolved over the last 50 years on a case-by-case basis through legislative and administrative actions and by public referendum.
The new classifications for marine protected areas, effective for any proposals for designation submitted after Jan. 1 are as follows:
- State Marine Reserve — Recreational fishing is prohibited; allows for limited scientific collection of marine plants and animals by permit.
- State Marine Park — Prohibits commercial harvesting; allows recreational fishing under restrictions; allows scientific collection by permit.
- State Marine Conservation Area — Limited commercial and recreational fishing; and scientific collection by permit may be allowed.
For additional information on the MLPA, or to obtain copies of the letters that were mailed to constituents, log on to DFG's web site at www.dfg.ca.gov/mrd/mlpa/index.html.
Written comments should be sent to: California Department of Fish and Game, Attn: Paul Reilly, 20 Lower Ragsdale Drive, Suite 100, Monterey, CA 93940. Fax: (831) 649-2894; e-mail: email@example.com.