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Protecting Marine Life Off San Diego's Coast

A plan to establish a network of marine protected areas is the focus of workshops in San Diego this week. The plan seeks to protect areas off the entire California coast including San Diego County. KP

Protecting Marine Life Off San Diego's Coast

A plan to establish a network of marine protected areas is the focus of workshops in San Diego this week. The plan seeks to protect areas off the entire California coast including San Diego County. KPBS Environmental Reporter Ed Joyce has details.

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The workshops are the first step in telling people about the Marine Life Protection Act or MLPA.

Meetings this week in Carlsbad and San Diego focus on the MLPA's South Coast initiative project.

The South Coast plan covers a stretch of ocean from Santa Barbara County south to the California border with Mexico including offshore islands.

Melissa Miller-Henson is with the MLPA initiative.

She says the goal is to help the state conserve marine life and habitat by designing a network of marine protected areas along California's 1,100 mile coastline.

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Miller-Henson: Rather than managing or protecting individual species or individual habitat, the MLPA requires us to try and help protect and help conserve the entire ocean ecosystem.

Scott Harrison is the chairman of Surfrider Foundation's San Diego chapter.

He says understanding that all ecosystems are interrelated is the first step in protecting the ocean.

Harrison: The ocean ecosystems have been sort of under attack through mainly development. And the machinations that all happen on land here always end up sort of in the ocean and take their toll on various ecosystems there. So Surfrider supports bringing those under control and trying to protect special places.

The workshops will use an "open house" format and include an overview of the process and the status of marine protected areas in the state.

The MLPA Initiative was enacted in 1999.

It directs the state to reexamine and redesign California's system of marine protected areas.

The goal is to increase the protection of those areas.

A task force expects to make a final recommendation to the Fish and Game Commission by the end of 2009 on proposals to protect marine areas off the coast from Santa Barbara to the Mexican border.

Ed Joyce, KPBS News.