Poacher Busted for Messing with California’s MPAs

Images by Hayley Miller

In a recent victory for San Diego County Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliot struck a plea deal with poacher Jeff Anthony Zenin which landed him 3 years of probation, a $30,000 fine, the loss of all fishing gear used during his poaching acts and the forfeiture of his rights to obtain a fishing license in the state of California. Zenin, a resident of Arizona, was caught poaching abalone in the South La Jolla State Marine Reserve (SMR) in September and October of 2015. Due to the fact that Zenin was caught poaching inside an MPA he was penalized to a greater extent than the typical abalone poacher. Follow the link to read the full article in the San Diego Union-Tribune.

MPAs are established to protect the natural resources within by creating take restrictions. MPAs are often placed in areas of ecological significance that act as essential habitat for managed species. MPAs offer a conservation solution to the overharvest and incidental take of species that ensure a healthy functioning ecosystem.

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The State of the California South Coast State of the Region Report


The South Coast State of the Region report is a summary (2011-2015) that sheds light on the ecological and socioeconomic state of the South Coast region during the implementation phase of the South Coast Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). This report takes into account the expansion of the statewide MPA establishment to San Diego county in 2012.

The South Coast State of the Region report discusses the baseline ecological monitoring that occurred in the first few years after MPA establishment and the importance of these finding. Varying projects and stakeholder groups came together to produce a comprehensive report that provides insight into the overall health of the region’s coastal and marine ecosystems and human use in these areas. It is important to establish accurate baselines for ecological and human use monitoring to create a basis of understanding for improved management of resources through informed decision making.

Some KEY HIGHLIGHTS from Baseline Monitoring:

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New study outlines importance of adaptive management strategies for MPAs

Ourdoor Outreach students learn about tide pools, tagging and estimating sealife populations at Scripps Institiute of Oceanography.

Students overlooking the Matlahuayl State Marine Reserve

WILDCOAST has long supported the conservation of our coastal and marine resources through a number of management strategies. In recent years the primary tool used for natural resource management in coastal and marine ecosystems has been the implementation of marine protected areas (MPAs). The establishment of MPAs is a relatively recent advancement in conservation science and works by restricting resource removal in select areas. Areas selected to become MPAs are chosen because of their importance as critical habitat, cultural sites and for strategic resource management. Recent studies have supported the benefits of MPAs showing that they increase the size of fish and invertebrates and act as a sort of “recharge station” for fisheries while improving overall ocean and ecosystem health. Many of the MPAs established around the state, such as those in San Diego, are approaching their five year review.  

In a recent paper published in the journal of Ocean and Coastal Management titled Assessment and management of cumulative impacts in California’s network of marine protected areas, authors Megan E. Mach, et al. explain that simply establishing MPAs as stationary zones of protection may not be an effective management strategy without taking into consideration larger environmental stressors. As human population grows, sea surface temperatures rise, invasive species spread and the ocean becomes more acidic, management of MPAs needs to remain flexible the their ability to adapt. These adaptive approaches require the cooperation of stakeholders from all walks of life. The issue is that at times policy is slow to adapt to best management practices and as the paper points out “Marine protected areas are likely to result in desired conservation outcomes when human activities and their associated stressors impacting biodiversity and ecosystem integrity are understood, and the most important of these and their cumulative impacts are addressed.”

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Protecting San Diego’s Coast

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On Friday, January 6, 2017, WILDCOAST joined San Diego Councilmembers Barbara Bry  and Lorie Zapf, and other conservation organizations, to urge President Obama to protect the coast of San Diego from any future offshore drilling. Recent efforts to prevent the Pacific region’s outer continental waters from oil and gas development have so far yielded only temporary protection. 

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Get to know your neighbor: Leopard Shark, Triakis semifasciata

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Photo by Octavio Aburto

Week #5: Leopard Shark, Triakis semifasciata

I lurk in shallow nearshore marine waters in search of my next meal. I scan the seafloor using senses attuned to find prey that hides amongst the benthos*. When I zero in on my victim I surge forward and use my specially shaped sub-terminal* mouth to pluck it from its hiding place. I have been witnessed moving so quickly that I can snatch the siphon of a clam from the sand surface before it has the chance to retreat to its shell. I Although I can look and sound menacing, I am one of the more docile sharks in existence. At a general length of 4-5 feet I can send a chill down the spine of recreational beach goers if seen cruising underfoot but should be considered harmless.

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Elephant Seal Adventures at Año Nuevo

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There is no place on the California coast quite like Año Nuevo State Park. This jewel of a reserve that hugs Highway 1 between San Francisco and Santa Cruz is a haven for terrestrial and marine wildlife. Between December and late March northern elephant seals can be found along the shoreline where they are resting, mating and giving birth. It is a spectacular wildlife spectacle along one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in California.

In addition to the extensive terrestrial protection that abuts Big Basin Redwoods State Park and Butano State Park, the area is the home of the Año Nuevo State Marine Conservation Area, one of 15 marine protected areas off of the Central Coast. Due to the presence of the elephant seals that are the preferred food of white sharks, this area is known for its shark sightings. Researchers use the abandoned Lighthouse Station on Ano Nuevo Island for shark tagging.

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Week #3: Giant Kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera

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I am the single most important organism in kelp forest ecosystems. So important in fact, scientists named the entire ecosystem after me. I am uniquely adapted to thriving in nearshore rocky habitat that covers much of the benthos of San Diego county’s marine areas. Something that most people do not know about me is that I am not a plant but actually an algae. I differ from plants in many ways, but most noticeably I do not have roots. I have what is known as a holdfast, which I use as an anchor to secure themselves to the seafloor. As one of the fastest growing organisms on the planet, I have been recorded growing by as much as 2 feet a day and reaching sizes of 150 feet in a single growing season. As a primary producer, I provide nourishment for the entire southern California ecosystem and facilitate San Diego counties vast biodiversity. 

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Get to Know Your Neighbors, Week #2: The Garibaldi Fish

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You may have seen me florescent orange, ebbing and flowing with tidal surges against the dark backdrop of the sea floor. If you have snorkeled, swam, or kayaked near La Jolla Cove (in the Matlahuayl State Marine Reserve) you may have noticed me curiously pecking away at exposed sections of rocky reef in search of tidbits of food, my favorite being small invertebrates. Just like you I also have a home and at a certain age I built myself a house in order to find a mate. My mate or mates lay eggs in the rocky substrate that I maintain and fiercely protect. I have been known to aggressively attack anything swimming too close to my developing eggs… even humans! Because of my charisma and tenacity I was named the California state marine fish and was also the inspiration for Dr. Seuss’ “red fish” in the popular story of Cat in the Hat.

Why should humans care about me?           [Read more…]

WILDCOAST’s Floating Laboratories are Helping to Conserve our Marine Protected Areas

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This summer and fall, WILDCOAST is carrying out an exciting project to engage San Diego County students in the conservation of the region’s marine protected areas, or MPAs. Through our Floating Laboratory project, students from the Sycuan Teen Center, La Jolla Band of Luiseño Indians, San Ysidro Girl Scout Troop 5912 and Imperial Beach Junior Lifeguards are conducting real scientific research on the water to help guide MPA management decisions and enhance their ability to protect coastal and marine resources.

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Press Release: Speaker Atkins releases bill requiring lobbying transparency at Coastal Commission

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For immediate release

February 17, 2016

CONTACT:
Serge Dedina, WiLDCOAST, serge@wildcoast.net, 619.606.0537
Susan Jordon, California Coastal Protection Network, sjordan@coastaladvocates.com, 805-637-3037

Speaker Atkins releases bill requiring lobbying transparency at Coastal Commission

Sacramento, CA – In the wake of the controversial vote to oust Executive Director Charles Lester last week, Speaker Toni Atkins has released a bill designed to increase transparency and accountability at the California Coastal Commission and reduce the influence of special interests.  The Commission reviews projects worth billions of dollars.  Yet, for decades, lobbyists have been able to woo Commissioners without the public’s knowledge of how much these lobbyists are paid or by whom.  The bill is co-sponsored by Assemblymembers Stone and Levine.

Atkins was clearly troubled by the Commission’s decision to terminate Dr. Lester, who was widely regarded as a fair and competent public servant. Following hours of public testimony at the February 10 hearing, the Commission chose to retire to closed session, despite the advice of legal counsel that they could deliberate in public. Following the 7-5 vote to fire Lester, Atkins tweeted, “Let me apologize to the public. I truly thought my appointees would be better stewards of the coast.”

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