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Increased Protections For San Diego Coastal Waters


Areas off San Diego County's coast will now be part of a statewide system of underwater parks. The California Fish and Game Commission voted last week to adopt a network of marine protected areas, or MPA's, from Santa Barbara to the Mexican border.

An idea that marine environmentalists in California have been working toward for many years is about to become reality. A series of Marine Protected Areas described as a network of underwater parks…has been approved by the California Fish and Game commission. The MPA's as they're called are located in designated coastal waters from Santa Barbara to the Mexican border. There are three protected areas along San Diego's coast.

While this is a victory for activists who've been working to protect California's marine life, many say the protection these habitats afford will also be a victory in the long-run for marine businesses and fishing interests.


San Diego Coastkeeper Marine Conservation Manager Meagan Wylie

Dave Rudie, owner of Catalina Offshore Products, a local seafood company.

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This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. An idea that marine environmentalists in California have been working toward for many years is about to become reality. A series of marine protected areas described as a network of under water parks has been approved by the California fish and game commission. The MPAs as they're called are designated coastal waters from Santa Barbara to the Mexican boarder, there are three protected areas along San Diego's coast. While this is a victory [CHECK] will also be a victory in the long run for marine businesses and fishing interests. Here to tell us more about the marine protected areas in San Diego is my guest, San Diego coast keeper, marine conservation manager, Megan Wylie. And Megan, good morning.

WYLIE: Good morning, how are you?

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'm quite well, and thanks for coming in.

WYLIE: Of course.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So where are the areas along San Diego's coast that will now become part of the state wide network of protected areas?

WYLIE: Sure, like you mentioned, we have three major ones in San Diego. [CHECK] to the north down to the San Elijo beach state grounds.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And what community is that sort of located in.

WYLIE: That's the Encinitas community up in North County. And then further south, we have a few protected areas in La Jolla. We kept the ecological reserve in La Jolla shores. I think most people in the community are familiar with that. That's a small marine protected victory, but a tremendous victory was given in south La Jolla from approximately [CHECK] so it's about two and a half miles of coast lineup, and the third other ocean area is right in the Tijuana estuary kind of near the border. And we also have a few other additional estuary areas in San Elijo, and another tiny reserve we maintained was at the tip of [CHECK] in the Cabrio National area is. So that is protected.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So Megan, give under the circumstances a sense of how big -- how significant this decision is for conservationists, because [CHECK] have been working for this for a language time.

WYLIE: Yes, we've been working on this issue for nearly four years now. And I think it's really the most significant piece of ocean legislation that we've seen in our generation, probably since the clean water act. The actual legislation, [CHECK] which were signed in 1999, so it's been really extensive, and as you can imagine, we have gone through many hours and years of drawing lines on the map, literally suspicious in San Diego, we've been able to increase our protected areas from about one percent of our coastal waters to a little bit seven percent, so that is pretty significant, and then in the south coast, we've doubled our protections?

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And why is it such a big deal.

WYLIE: I think it's such a big deal because the oceans are really at a tipping point, and we've come to discover over the last several decades that we can't take out more than the ocean can sustain, and single fisheries [CHECK] isn't quite working. We've kind of fished down the food chain, and we've sign fisheries collapses and ecosystems collapse, and we need to rebuild them. We need to give marine life a chance to real estate establish itself and become healthy and thrive again.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'm speaking with Megan Wylie, she is San Diego [CHECK] maroon conservation manager, and we're talking about [CHECK] areas that have been designated as such, off the San Diego toast, and that these protected areas have been protected by the California fish and fame commission. Now, what happens in an area that's designated as a marine protection area? I mean, what can you do and what can't you do?

WYLIE: In the marine protected area, you can do almost everything except fish in certain ones. It gets a lot complicated, because there are several different types of marine protected areas. In San Diego, we have marine reserves, which are no take, maximum protection. And there's all conservation areas, which allow for certain types of recreational take, and each area has certain allowances of soap it's not the same across the board for every conservation area. And there's also state parks that would allow for both commercial and recreational take, but we aren't really concerned with those in San Diego. None of those have really been designated. So for example the conservation area that we just set aside up in the Swamis/Encinitas area will allow for sure fishing by hook and line and also spear fishing issue but other types of recreational or commercail fishing will not be allowed in that area, but we'll be able to dive and surf and beach walk in the tide pool, and all those other non consumptive activities.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So mainly, it's to stop commercial fishing of one kind or another.

WYLIE: And recreational fishing.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And recreational fishing. In a boat, as opposed to fishing from the shore.

WYLIE: Yes, in the Swami's area.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Okay. And is there any area where there's no fishing allowed at all?

WYLIE: In the marine reserves in the La Jolla area.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So it's -- you just can't take out anything basically in these protected areas.

WYLIE: Exactly.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So what are these -- I know some of these areas, as you mention, were actually protected before. What does this additional designation do for areas along San Diego coast?

WYLIE: Hopefully they will function as a network. So we have had very few sporadic tiny, tiny protected marine areas, in some cases smaller than the size of a football field, and a lot of marine life covers an area in their daily movement patterns that's quite a bit larger than that. So we've seen improvements in populations from species that are heavily targeted, such as lobster, that don't move around quite a bit, really start to come back from having a tiny area protected. But we realize that if we can create bigger and more protected marine areas, that many, many more species will improve. And is we can kind of set aside a string of ecological areas like biological corridors on land.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: That's fascinating. So you actually do have evidence that you've obviously presented to the agencies involved showing that when you do preserve these underwater areas, these under water parks as some people call them, like our string of national parks, that threatened species do -- are sometimes able to come back?

WYLIE: Yes. And there has been well or a hundred studies, case studies done worldwide, showing that marine protected areas do work, and in California we really only needs to hook as far as the channel islands for evidence of that. Because the channel islands were a protected area, and the northern channel ooh lands were designated in 2002, and a five-year study of that, doing some monitoring and some assessments of the health of the species have shown significant increases in size and abundance of species like lobster and rock fish.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, how will people know where these protected areas are in these coastal waters?

WYLIE: That's a really good question. There's several methods that will be implemented to educate and out reach to the public, and a lot of partnerships that are in place. And they include things like the standard signage, putting information, putting boundary coordinates on GPS units for boats, the birch aquarium will have displays, and they have been tremendous in educating the community throughout the process so far. And organizations such as coast keeper and state parks will have information available on their website. And, you know, we have a lot of collaborative patterns just trying to come up with creative ways, you be, such as our conversation this morning, trying to teach people about this important situation.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Will these areas be policed in any way? Will the coast guard be watching out? Who will be seeing that the protections are basically -- people go along with this?

WYLIE: Right, the department of fish and game is actually tasked with that responsibility. So there'll be another of fishing game ordinances that will patrol those areas, and you know, we're also hoping and can really count on community participation, and kind of self- policing assist apse from life guards. That's been plenty of talk with having docent programs established, from certain volunteer groups, phone numbers that you can cull, it's something that we're trying to work on and we can look to other areas of the California coast that had the marine protected areas for a while. For examples on how to best enforce the marine protected areas.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, you would imagine that there would be a lot of push back from commercial fishermen, and sport fishermen, and people who hike to use these areas for those purposes. I understand that this entire process was of a collaborative process with lots of input from fishing industry, conservationists. Can you 28 us a lot bit about that process and the compromises that were made?

WYLIE: Sure. And it was extremely important to have all of that collaborative discussion, because you're affecting lively hoods and you're making decisions that are going to last way beyond your own lifetime. And so we work through original steak holder group process, with different folks who haven't different industries from commercial fishing, recreational fishing, divers issue conservationists, from Santa Barbara to the coast, to literally sit through over 60 meetings and hundreds of hours of discussion to negotiate lineups on maps, and because there were so many socioeconomic concerns, we had a whole plethora of information available to us, in modeling and scientific experts, and input from the fish upper men directly, saying what areas were the most important to them. And so we were able to leave those areas open. So is that we could, you know, try to minimize impacts to the maximum extent possible.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Joining us on the line now -- I want to reintroduce my guest, I'm speaking with Megan Wylie, she's with San Diego coast keeper, and Dave Rudy joins us now, he's owner of Catalina off shore products. Good morning, Dave.

RICKY YOUNG: Good morning.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So what is your take on the -- this marine protected area? The fact that it's now been approved by the California fish and game commission? Do you feel that your voice has been heard? And are you okay with these areas?

RICKY YOUNG: Well, I was involved in negotiations up to a certain point. I was one of the steak holders, and the steak shoulders drew up three plans, and at that point it was forwarded to the blue ribbon task force, and they sort of made a combination of those three plans. Then it got Ford forwarded to the fish and game commission, and they pretty much adopted what the [CHECK] adopted with some changes. So I was involved -- I think the biggest issue right now is that the fish and game doesn't have the money for enforcement. And also the fishing community supported plan two, and I think they're really feeling disenfranchised the way that some of the maneuvering happened after it left the steak holder group.


RICKY YOUNG: So I know some of the sport fishing groups have a lawsuit that they're proceeding with. You know, as far as how this affects me personally or my business, it's not gonna be that big of an effect. But the sport fishing groups are pretty upset over the way this thing happened.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I see. So what about this lawsuit, Megan? Will that perhaps delay implementation?

WYLIE: I don't really believe that it will. The lawsuit is actually about public records acts. And and you know, we moved forward, it's kind of nothing really new that hasn't happened in other areas of the coastline. So I, you know, I think that the lawyers are just proceeding with that, but I don't really have a sense of if it would delay implementation as far as I'm concerned with the adoption that happened last Wednesday by the fish and game commission, that's a huge victory, and we're on tract.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Dave Rudy, [CHECK] sports fishing interests, do you basically buy the bottom line concept that these certain habitats have to be protected or else we're basically out of luck in California, that these reserves are just gonna dry up?

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Well, I supported the concept of marine protected areas again, I wasn't involved, I of one of the ones making the plans [CHECK] [CHECK] so the fishermen were on board with the concept, even the people that are starting a lawsuit, they were at the table there drawing plans and they presented a plan that they thought was best for the economy, for the resource, for everything else, they're just upset on how things happened after they turned their plan in. And I think one of the big issues here is, for these to really working we really need the support of the fishing community, because they're the ones who are out in the water. We need the support of the whole community, but especially the fishing community because again, they're on the water every day. It's their support or lack of support will make a big difference whether these things are effective or not. We don't want just paper parks that are not enforced and nobody cares with it. If we want real protection, we need the support of the fishermen. [CHECK].

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Dave, thank you, thank you for calling in, I really do appreciate it. Dave Rudy with Catalina off shore products. And Megan, what's your reaction to what Dave said?

WYLIE: I of course understand Dave avenue concerns, and they have been concerns that everyone has had empathy for since the very beginning of the process, but as Dave alluded to, the fishermen had created one of the proposals, map two, and the conservation perspective did the same thing, and in the end, we kind of came up with a conglomeration of both of those maps, and an example of one of the compromises that was made is in San Diego we wanted to place some protections in some habitat in Point Loma, but because that was so near San Diego bay, and identified as one of the primary spots for sport fishermen, and recreational boats and also commercial fishermen, we left that entire area open. So at the end of the day, you know, the protections that were offered in San Diego and all of Southern California were significantly less than what, what a conservation perspective, we were hoping for from the beginning. But at the same time, we recognize the give and take that needs to happen there.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Megan, tell us once again when will these marine protected areas go into effect, when will the restrictions go into effect, and also where can people find out more information about where exactly these areas are located?

WYLIE: I think when they go into effect is a little fuzzy, that wasn't actually discussed at the commission meeting last Wednesday, they're official into law, but the -- the regulations will probably take effect, I'm hypothesizing in the first couple of months of last year, if any of the other regions are an indication, as far as finding out more information, there's information on the department of fish and game website, and there's a map there on the shapes that were adopted for the Southern California coast in the next couple of days, coast keeper walls will have the information up on our website.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Megan Wylie of San Diego coast keeper. Thank you very much for speaking with us.

WYLIE: Thank you so much for having me.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And I want to thank Dave Rudy, owner of Catalina off shore products for calling in. And if you'd like to comment, please go on-line, Days. Coming up, the latest on San Diego's first winter storm. That's as These Days continues here on KPBS.

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