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Underwater Preserves OK’d Off San Diego’s Coast

Above: Areas off San Diego County's coast will now be part of a statewide system of underwater parks. This map highlights the marine protected areas in San Diego coastal waters adopted as part of the South Coast Study Region Marine Protected Areas by the California Fish and Game Commission on December 15, 2010.

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Aired 12/16/10

The California Fish and Game Commission voted Wednesday to adopt a network of marine protected areas, or MPA's, from Santa Barbara to the Mexican border.

The California Fish and Game Commission voted Wednesday 3-to-2 to adopt a network of marine protected areas, or MPA's, from Santa Barbara to the Mexican border.

The protected areas will join the existing system of MPAs that stretch from Santa Barbara north to Mendocino, forming part of the statewide system of underwater parks.

Areas off San Diego County's coast were set aside as part of the decision.

Megan Wylie, Conservation manager with the environmental group San Diego Coastkeeper, attended the Fish and Game Commission meeting in Santa Barbara.

"Our major protections will be at Swamis in Encinitas and South La Jolla," said Wylie.

Wylie said San Diego's new protected sections also include areas off Point Loma and Imperial Beach.

These included a slight expansion of the conservation area at Swamis in Encinitas, adding just over a mile of protection at this geography.

The Swamis conservation area is the largest in San Diego at over three shoreline miles and ten-square-miles of protected area. It will allow for spear fishing and shore fishing by hook and line gear.

Wylie said the size of the marine reserve at south La Jolla was also expanded by two city blocks so that boundaries would be more easily recognized by the public, providing this area with just more than seven-square-miles of critical protection.

"The reserve in south La Jolla now stretches from Palomar Avenue to Missouri Street in Pacific Beach," Wylie said. "In addition, the historic marine protected area at La Jolla shores, stretching to the Scripps pier, has been retained."

She said the goal is to allow dwindling fish species and other marine life to return in larger numbers.

Among marine life expected to benefit from protection off San Diego are lobster, rock fish and white sea bass and other species, she noted.

Setting aside "no fishing" areas is required under California's Marine Life Protection Act.

The act requires the state to restrict fishing and other activities in underwater areas off the California coastline.

The Fish and Game Commission voted in favor of the Integrated Preferred Alternative, or IPA, a compromise plan that combines MPA proposals from fishermen, divers, conservationists and scientists.

The IPA was unanimously recommended to the Fish and Game Commission by a Blue Ribbon Task Force of policy experts.

The MLPA process for Southern California took nearly two years and involved thousands of organizations, from commercial fishing interests to environmental groups.

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