Reviews of Northern California and Central Coast regions either are under way or complete as the state determines which marine areas should be protected. Next up: Southern California, which includes waters off Santa Barbara. (Will McClintock graphic / Marine Life Protection Act Initiative)

The first in a series of workshops to determine which of Southern California’s marine areas should be protected, will be held Monday in Santa Barbara.

The workshops are meant to jump-start the third phase of the 1999 Marine Life Protection Act Initiative, an ongoing effort to conserve habitats in state waters. The process involves input from the many entities that have a stake in the Southern California coastal region, such as fishermen, marine scientists, conservationists, economists and community members.

“Our goal is to help the state conserve marine life and habitat by designing a network of marine protected areas along the entire coast of California in order to restore a healthy ocean ecosystem,” said Susan Golding, chairwoman of a task force overseeing the planning process. “The public’s participation is vital to our ability to do this successfully.”

Proposed marine protected areas from Half Moon Bay south to Point Conception have either already undergone the process or are in the last stages of review. According to Steve Martarano of the California Department of Fish & Game, the time and effort spent going over the first two phases were necessary to inform how this third phase will be handled.

“The South Coast phase will cover the biggest section of California’s marine areas,” he said, explaining that the upcoming phase will cover state waters from Point Conception to the Mexico border including offshore islands.

Monday’s workshop — scheduled from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Louise Lowry Davis Recreation Center, 1232 De la Vina St. — will be the first of a series of information sessions meant to acquaint those interested with the process.

“This will be a more free-form workshop,” said John Ugoretz, a Department of Fish & Game marine scientist who will be at Monday’s workshop. “Instead of having a bunch of people sitting around a table giving presentations, we’ll have one presentation and several stations that participants can visit and ask questions.”

The point, he said, would be to educate the public about the initiative process and how they can become involved. From this first set of meetings, a stakeholder group will be assembled.

Anyone who uses these marine areas — from nonconsumptive users like kayakers to consumptive users like fishermen — is a stakeholder, Martarano said. After the stakeholders have been elected, there will be many more meetings and workshops to put together proposals for Southern California MPAs. Final Southern California MPA recommendations to the California Fish and Game Commission will be made in late 2009.

The first series of workshops are scheduled for:

» Santa Barbara: Monday, Louise Lowry Davis Recreation Center, 1232 De la Vina St., 805.897.2568

» Oxnard: Tuesday, South Oxnard Center, 200 E. Bard Road (located next to the South Oxnard Branch Library), 805.385.8362

» Santa Monica: Wednesday, Ken Edwards Center, 1527 Fourth St., 310.458.8300

A second set of workshops is scheduled for:

» Huntington Beach, July 8,, Huntington Beach Harbor View Club House, 16600 Saybrook Lane, 714.536.5486

» Encinitas, July 9, location to be determined

» San Diego, July 10, Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, 1875 El Prado, 619.238.1233

All workshop times are 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.

“The next phase of the MLPA Initiative will again afford many opportunities for public involvement, which begins with this series of workshops from Santa Barbara to San Diego,” said MLPA executive director Ken Wiseman.

“We’re excited to continue moving forward using an ongoing, transparent, dynamic public process, continually integrating the lessons we learn along the way.”

Noozhawk staff writer Sonia Fernandez can be reached at