About 11 percent of the Southern California coastline is about to go on lockdown, thanks to somewhat controversial new Marine Protected Areas drafted by the state Department of Fish and Game. (Map of all protected SoCal waters, below.)

So what does that mean for you? Stefanie Sekich of ocean-centric org Surfrider says the law that created the areas “encourages recreation” like surfing and boating, but prohibits “all extraction of marine life.” For example: fishing, diving for seafood or kelp harvesting. Also, shell collecting in tidepools — Sekich says “anything that produces a home for another animal” is off-limits.

Still confused?

Surfrider doesn't blame you. That's why, along with Reef Check California, the foundation is hosting an hour-long info session at 7 p.m. on November 15 at SEA Lab in Redondo Beach.

According to the event invite, organizers plan to answer questions and “examine maps, photos and review new MPA guidelines.”

Some questions they probably won't be answering, however, are those raised by fishermen, radical environmentalists, clean-water advocates and American-Indian activists during the MPA drafting process.

Map of South Coast MPAs. (Click to enlarge.); Credit: California Department of Fish and Game

Map of South Coast MPAs. (Click to enlarge.); Credit: California Department of Fish and Game

First point of alarm was the Marine Life Protection Act task force, formed during the reign of Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to designate protection areas. The governor chose gas-company lobbyist Catherine Reheis-Boyd as head of the SoCal chapter. Enviro blog Red Green and Blue reported in January that, under Reheis-Boyd, the task force was sabotaging the MLPA with the most watered-down regs possible:

“She and other task force members did everything they could to take commercial uses of the ocean other than fishing and gathering off the table — dis-include oil drilling and spills, water pollution, development, military testing, and corporate aquaculture — in their bizarre concept of marine 'protection.'”

The blog later called the MPAs “a clear example of corporate greenwashing.” Skeptics questioned large private donors with a vested interest in removing Big Oil's biggest opponents — fishermen and seaweed harvesters — from California waters.

However, Sekich (from Surfrider) argues that the new MPAs are “spaced appropriately” to prioritize birthing grounds. If fish eggs can be hatched in peace, she says, “ocean currents will take eggs to other areas of ocean” — making for healthier fish populations outside the MPAs, as well.

And a San Diego Superior Court judge apparently agrees: Litigation proposed by a “coalition of sportfishing groups” against the NorCal regulations was rejected just three weeks ago, likely setting a precedent for all similar SoCal lawsuits. If all goes as planned, our new MPAs will take effect on January 1, 2012.

Some of the most vocal opponents to the fishing regulations — defenders of American-Indian tradition — likewise announce today that the MPAs have been much improved under Democratic Governor Jerry Brown.

“After many months of work, tribes and other local residents agreed to support a marine protection plan for the North Coast that would avoid key traditional tribal gathering places and allow for continued tribal fishing, gathering, harvesting and stewardship in many of the new protected areas. The plan would also create several fully protected marine life refuges in high-priority conservation areas. The process has been far from perfect or easy, yet the tribes' persistence — and the state's willingness to listen and work toward a solution — has paid off.”

Still confused? Like we said — 7 p.m., November 15, Sea Lab, Redondo Beach.


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