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Southern California Marine Areas Getting State Review

Coastal and marine resources are the subject of a new state effort aimed at enhancement and protection.

Southern California’s coastal and marine environment will be the center of attention as the state embarks on the latest in a series of reviews aimed at assessing, enhancing and protecting marine life, habitats and ecosystems.

The state Department of Fish & Game announced Thursday that the five-year Marine Life Protection Act initiative has moved to Southern California for the third of five phases of the review. This phase of implementation will study and create a network of marine protected areas, or MPAs, in the region.

Conservation groups welcomed the announcement.

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“Marine protected areas and fully protected marine reserves are a common sense way to help marine life recover from the increasing and varied threats facing our oceans,” said Kira Redmond, executive director of Santa Barbara Channelkeeper.

“When safe havens are set aside for marine life to recover, scientific studies show that certain species can rebound quite quickly, while others become more stable, increasing the chance for a more sustainable ocean heritage for future Californians.”

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. They will be invited to participate in a series of workshops and public meetings aimed at designing MPAs that allow for the use and enjoyment of Southern California’s coastal and marine areas while protecting the region’s ecology.

The MLPA was enacted in 1999. The first phase of the process took place on the Central Coast from Point Conception north to Half Moon Bay, resulting in the unanimous adoption last September of 29 MPAs encompassing 204 square miles, or 18 percent of the Central Coast. The second phase covered Half Moon Bay to Point Arena in Mendocino County, and design proposals for MPAs in that region are currently being reviewed by the Fish & Game Department. The Southern California phase is expected to be completed by January 2009.

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