Friday, February 5 , 2016, 3:08 pm | Fair 71º

Greg Helms: It’s Time We Extend Park Protection to the Ocean, Too

Historic decision on Marine Protected Areas set for Dec. 15 in Santa Barbara

By Greg Helms |

Final action is at hand in the long effort to create Marine Protected Areas along Santa Barbara’s coast and beyond. Local groups have struggled mightily for more than two years to advance a plan to protect local ocean hotspots to conserve biodiversity, increase and sustain wildlife, and restore our historic ocean abundance. On Dec. 15, the California Fish and Game Commission will meet in Santa Barbara for final action on a solid plan for Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) for the Southern California coastline.

Greg Helms
Greg Helms

Establishing MPAs along the South Coast is part of a larger process required by the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) of 1999. The MLPA was designed to bring to the ocean the clear benefits of our terrestrial parks and wilderness areas by protecting marine life and habitats; providing better opportunities for recreation, education and research; and ensuring long-term health and productivity of our ocean. California is the first state to take a comprehensive, science-based, statewide approach to restoring and protecting its ocean ecosystems.

MPAs aren’t just “the right thing to do.” Research on MPAs around the world shows that protected areas result in more and bigger fish and increased biodiversity within their boundaries. Furthermore, larger fish found in MPAs produce many more offspring than small fish do, and those larvae spill over into surrounding areas, helping keep oceans healthier. MPAs help safeguard marine resources by protecting entire ecosystems and are an essential tool in sustaining fish and wildlife in our oceans. Scientists believe these benefits are the key to reversing years of declining fish populations, falling seafood catches and weakened marine ecosystems.

To be most effective, MPAs must be placed in productive habitats containing the kelp forests and rocky reefs that support abundance and diversity. For more than a year, a group of local stakeholders — including fishermen, divers, conservationists, tribal representatives and business owners — worked together to determine the size and location of MPAs along the South Coast. Thanks to tremendous effort by activists here and along the Southern California coast, the proposal now under consideration by the Fish and Game Commission, called the “Integrated Preferred Alternative” (IPA), includes fantastic and well-loved ocean sites like the UCSB and Coal Oil Point coastline, Point Conception and Cojo Anchorage along the Gaviota coast, and the unique submerged pinnacle system at Naples Reef. (Click here for an overview map of the proposed MPA.)

The plan also integrates many of the compromises made by the stakeholders to balance the needs and interests of all ocean users in Southern California by leaving the majority of the ocean open to various forms of fishing. MPAs would remain open and enhance our experiences for activities like diving, swimming, boating, whale and bird watching, and surfing.

We’ve had parks and refuges on land for decades; it’s time to extend this protection to our ocean wilderness. We cannot afford to miss this critical opportunity to safeguard our marine resources.

Please support the creation of MPAs in Southern California by attending the final decision meeting in Santa Barbara from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 15 at Hotel Mar Monte, 1111 E. Cabrillo Blvd. Spread the word to your friends and family. The ocean needs you.

Click here for more information on MPAs, provided by CalOceans, a coalition of the Natural Resources Defense Council, Ocean Conservancy and the Otter Project.

— Greg Helms lives in Santa Barbara and manages the Washington, D.C.-based Ocean Conservancy’s Southern California program. When he’s not advocating for conservation of California’s ocean wildlife or volunteering, he dives, surfs and explores. Follow the Ocean Conservancy on Twitter: @OurOcean. Become a fan of the Ocean Conservancy on Facebook.

» on 12.08.10 @ 11:38 AM

Great article. I’ll be there!

» on 12.08.10 @ 01:15 PM

This entire process is a sham causing economic devastation.

» on 12.08.10 @ 02:00 PM

“Economic devastation?!”  HA!  What an absolutely lame and vague attempt, Mr. Right, to scare people with unfounded rhetoric into thinking that we don’t know enough or have the right to have ocean resource protection and management that benefits ALL Californians!  The MLPA is our state’s best action for ensuring our ocean continues to and can even better provide ALL of California’s economies with the value we so heavily depend. 
Don’t be fooled by rhetoric or blatant self-interest and attend the meeting on the 15th to make sure the decision-makers aren’t either.  I’ll be there!

» on 12.08.10 @ 03:24 PM

I will be there as well and if you would like to see the economic impact reports as proof I would be glade to show you or anyone that is interested. Or talk with whoever would like to learn about the corruption behind this process and how many jobs will be lost because of these closures. Not to mention closing off the only safe areas in SB for recreational fishing and diving.  Not that it matters as this process has been so corrupt from the beginning that no amount of integrity or good intention would do any good.  Im not anti reserves, I am anti this corrupt process.

» on 12.08.10 @ 05:37 PM

You mean the official environmental report that found significant positive environmental effects and minimal economic impacts?  Seen it.  Believe it. 

In all respect, you can’t seriously believe all the safe accessible spots for fishing are proposed for protection under MPAs, unless you’re either not too knowledgeable or are parroting flat lies spun out by the fishing tackle industry. If the former is the case, you’ll be stoked to find great nearby spots (besides good ole dev’s).  Those perch weren’t that fun anyway.

Know what?  I’m glad anyone who’s interested is coming.  That’s how a fair proposal based on real-world input got created.  That’s why the real experienced fishermen are saying ‘this is ok.’  That’s why fishing is gonna get better if these MPAs are approved.

» on 12.08.10 @ 06:33 PM

The “Official” E.I.R. was bought and paid for by the same groups pushing these closures through.  The same people who stand to gain the most economically( ie. grants,endowments and allotted funds) from this scam on the people of Ca.  Please introduce me to the “Real Experienced Fishermen” that think this process is so great, doubt you can find one.  Anyone who has followed this process knows that it is corrupt and anytime an official has spoken out against it he has been replaced with someone who will not rock the boat.  It is obvious that you have no idea about what you are talking about as “Ole Dev” as you put is one of the most bio diverse kelp beds the in our area, hosting a variety of life from White Sea Bass to Pismo clams.  It is apparent that you dont spend much if anytime in the water.  Get off your high PERCH as the people of Santa Barbara do not want this closure.

» on 12.08.10 @ 06:57 PM

This corruption rhetoric is sickening.  The process to create the MPA proposals in front of the Commission involved a year of public meetings and negotiations where every ocean user stakeholder was represented - fishermen holding the majority of the representation.  Compare that to every other policy implementation procedure where all the public gets is 90 days to submit comments on a draft plan.  Now which method is more transparent and participatory?
Wait, Mr. Right, let me guess - you weren’t sitting at the negotiating table and no one was there to specifically address your ‘not in my back yard’ concerns.  Well, if you followed the process even half as closely as you imply you would know exactly which seat did represent your interests and believe me - every rep was heard. A little known fact that you likely know - the MPA in SB you refer to and that you so clearly take issue with is on EVERY MPA map because it was the VERY FIRST MPA proposed by the fishermen collective more than two years ago! SO maybe when you say ‘corrupt’ you are talking specifically about the fact that representatives (who no one would contest being “Real Experience Fishermen”) who claimed to represent you ended up prioritizing other demands on them.
I think I’m beginning to understand your whole frustration here…

» on 12.08.10 @ 08:10 PM

The farce you call public comment was just that. 
It’s obvious who signs your pay checks.

» on 12.09.10 @ 12:17 PM

Well said!! Our oceans are FINALLY getting the attention and protection they so desperately need. I’ll be there on the 15th.

» on 12.09.10 @ 03:53 PM

Er.. hmm.. Mr. Right,
The hipocracy is thick…
You say that the enviro groups are ” The same people who stand to gain the most economically” if MPAs pass. As if profit margins aren’t the number one factor behind industries fighting the MPAs in the first place?

I’m pretty darn sure that environmental groups aren’t getting rich off advocating for MPAs and I for one am glad there are a few professional enviros out there who are knowledgable enough to counter the MPA hate spam going being offered by people like you.  Is your point that you are upset that enviros are getting grant funding to advocate for MPAs?  That’s what environmental groups do.  They seek funding so that they can keep their doors open to protect the environment.  I understand you might have different values when it comes to protecting the environment, but if you’re going to try to turn this one around into some kind of crazy protit driven conspiracy by environmentalists, I don’t think you have a leg to stand on.  The fishing industry has already secured that role as the lead opponent of MPAs.

And what nonsense are you spouting about the MPAs restricing diving?  That just a blatent lie.  The MPAs won’t restrict recreational diving whatsoever. In fact, diving these spots will be totally awesome in a few years.

» on 12.09.10 @ 10:50 PM

The most economic prosperity comes from cutting down all the forests and harvesting all the fish from the sea.  Bonus for polluting the water while at it.

» on 12.09.10 @ 11:22 PM

It seems amazing to me with all of the “good science” out there Mr. Helms still reiterates the same old broken record of inaccuracies and fear mongering to create these overzealous reserves Right in the face of current fishery management that is working and has the support of the local community. In Greg’s defense just follow the money; Mr. Helms existence is supported by the same folks that own beachfront properties along the California coast. This is environmental activism covering private agendas there will be very little environmental protection truly offered by the MLPA.

» on 12.09.10 @ 11:51 PM

Manage the ocean?  Huh?  Ever heard of tides, worldwide currents, multi-thousand mile fetches?  Gonna manage those, too?  Some folks either have a rather grand self-image or are truly ignorant.  In either case, seriously delusional and spending California’s scant tax money on the wrong priorities.

» on 12.11.10 @ 06:34 PM

As I have already stated the Devereux reserve was proposed as a compromise to keep naples open.
Multiple regional stakeholders, including Helms himself have told this to me personally. A group of local kids had a long conversation with a Steal The Bay ep. about this at the meeting in Sb in august of last year. He stated multiple times that they(heal the bay, surfrider etc…) wee open to allowing spearfishing at Dev, but that they had instead compromised with the fishing reps to allow it at naples instead. At the time this seemed fair to us, because Naples is used much more than Dev, especially for commercial purposes.
We now know that this was just an attempt to stop us from fighting for Devereux, as in the current map, the IPA, recreational fishing is not allowed in any form In either reserve, although both are SMCAs.

» on 12.11.10 @ 08:47 PM

No.  Its hard to keep track of these traeoffs but the reality is this:  fishermen organized themselves well in advance of the first MLPA meeting, even before the stakehodlers panel was set.  They identified the areas between Campus Point and Coal Oil/Devereux as a good habitat area that was also minimally painful to give up.  If you’re pissed off that much about that spot, you have your friends the fishermen to blame.  Get this:  they received a grant to do this to you from the funder you guys are yammering about. I get that you are trying to blame the enviros cause its embarrassing to you that the folks you see as allies did you in.

Allowing spearing at Devereux was not feasible for science reasons.  It would have make the fishermen’s weak proposal 2 utterly garbage and weakened the others. Cant see your post and reply at the same time but your scenario about the tradeoff is wrong.  Now that spear fishers are learning to play ball and ready to learn not to be tools, we should have some more interesting and productive ocean efforts in the aftermath of MPA placement….

» on 12.11.10 @ 11:24 PM

What really pissed me off is the way greg helms, and the other heal the bay reps, deliberately took advantage of our lack of knowledge about the devereux reserve. To lie to a bunch of 15 year old kids in order to coerce them into not trying to preserve access to the ONLY safe local dive spot is a really low thing to do.
The whole not allowing of spearfishing for “science reasons” is BS, the campus/Helo/dev reserve was kept as an SMR throughout the entire process, ignoring the offshore tents,oil rig etc… in order to prevent any disscussion of allowing spearfishing, which was given a higher protection rating than any other method of take.
Spearfisherman have been extremely involved throughout the process, and have taken a much more moderate approach throughout the entire process than many environmental groups. Remember external map C (map 3) , by no stretch moderate, or compromising.By calling spearfisherman tools, you show your complete lack of involvement in the process.

» on 12.11.10 @ 11:35 PM

Spearfisherman have been “playing ball” throughout the entire process, and are some of the most environmentally conscous people out there. Not one species targeted by divers in CA is even remotely threatened. White seabass have been steadily recovering, thanks in a large part to the inshore gillnet ban effected with help from divers, and to the Hubbs hatchery program, which relies on volunteers from the fishing community.
Our own local branch, SB Sea released 18000 this year alone,which was wholly based on volunteer work by local commercial and recreational fisherman.
Spearfisherman also contribute greatly to beach clean ups, unlike the surfrider trash cans, many of which are placed in location that are never emptied, becoming pollution themselves. (such as the one at Naples)

» on 12.12.10 @ 03:22 AM

It is very telling that you continue to blatantly avoid the facts:
The fishermen collective, FIC/FIN, Prop A, whatever you want to call it, chose to offer up the Dev/Campus area from the beginning- in fact they touted it as their pride MPA! And if you don’t know, you should- there were both SB fishermen and spear fishermen flaunting their involvement in that plan. The only folks unequivocally not involved in those discussions were Helms and the enviros. Oh, and I guess you…

» on 12.12.10 @ 02:26 PM

Pretty sure it was designed that way to allow for commercial halibut fishing.  The criteria that was presented did not allow for much if any other scenario.

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