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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Exciting Times for MPA Watch

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Photo credit: Heal the Bay

This past week was an exciting one for MPA Watch.

As everybody who works in conservation knows, protecting anything is an ongoing task. The job doesn’t simply end once the regulations have been written and the signs have been posted. Further work is needed, including ongoing policy work, enforcement, and continued outreach to educate people on the importance of properly managing protected areas. In the case of California’s marine protected areas (MPAs), MPA Watch has been working to fill some of these needs, at least partially.

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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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MPA Watch Takes to the Skies

Coastline View

“Recreational, sport fisher, actively fishing.”

We’re flying in a Beechcraft BE-36 aircraft approximately 750 feet above the Pacific Ocean as our spotter in the front seat makes the call.

“Mark it…now”.

The person she’s relaying this information to is sitting directly behind her, operating a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) device that can log the types of vessels encountered and their activities, as well as their geographic coordinates. Photographs of the different vessels are also taken to help verify vessel types and activities prior to being uploaded to a database.

This aerial survey, and others like it, are being conducted by The Bay Foundation with support from Lighthawk. The aerial surveys compliment land-based surveys that are being carried out as part of a data collection program called MPA Watch. The MPA Watch program, which is being carried out statewide by 10 different organizations, including Wildcoast, monitors human use of the California coastline, especially in marine protected areas and surrounding locations. While MPA Watch data is most often collected through shore-based surveys conducted by trained volunteers, boat-based surveys and aerial surveys are also used to collect data on off-shore activities.

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San Diego County MPA Interpretive Signs Installed!

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Congratulations to the City of Encinitas and the Batiquitos Lagoon Foundation for the first installment of MPA interpretive panels in San Diego County! These incredible signs highlight the ecological significance, natural beauty and history of Swami’s and Batiquitos Lagoon MPAs.
Special thanks to everyone involved in the process! City of Encinitas, Surfrider Foundation, California State Parks, Marine Sanctuary Foundation, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Batiquitos Lagoon Foundation, and our staff at WILDCOAST!
We can’t wait to see the rest of the signs installed across San Diego County!

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Learning and Exploring La Jolla’s Marine Protected Areas

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

For the effective conservation of our coastline and our marine protected areas (MPAs), community engagement is key. And it is essential that people love these special areas for that needed public support.

To help youth in San Diego County get to know and hopefully fall in love with our local MPAs, WILDCOAST partnered with Outdoor Outreach to take five students from El Cajon Valley High School to Scripps Institution of Oceanography. There the students interacted with marine species that inhabit the Matlahuayl and San Diego-Scripps MPAs and learned how to make population estimate of various marine wildlife.

Marwa, one of the students, said, “I love enjoying the ocean but also learning about it”. Tamara, another student said, “I am so glad I got the chance to learn about marine species and actually see them!”

We would like to thank SIO scientist Brice Semmens and Rachel Labbe Bellas, Outdoor Outreach and the students of El Cajon Valley High School.

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Marine Protected Area Watch Training with the San Ysidro Girl Scouts

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In the beginning of 2014, WILDCOAST and the Girl Scouts of San Ysidro, developed the first Junior Marine Protected Area (MPA) Watch program in California. The program is designed to gather data on how people are using the MPA network and help guide future management decisions. The Junior MPA Watch program is engaging younger audiences in citizen science and greatly contributing to the statewide project. Today, over 100 youth in San Diego County have participated in the program, many from Girl Scout troop 5912 in San Ysidro, one of the county’s most park-poor communities.

Although the Girl Scouts love to play and learn in their closest MPA, the Tijuana River Mouth SMCA, they are also spending their free time helping WILDCOAST protect it. On June 15, 2015 two girl scouts from 5912 took on a new role in the program and trained eight of their group members to conduct the MPA Watch surveys.  Maite and Ileana, both have been very active in the program and other efforts to improve the MPA and nearby estuary. They have carried out beach cleanups, done storm drain stenciling in their community and have even visited local elected officials to ask for further open space and MPA protection. With their help, now even more local youth are stewarding one of the county’s underwater parks and helping to guide an effective future for our MPAs.

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California Approves Community Based Partnership Plan to Guide MPAs

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GREAT NEWS!  After a lengthy public and agency review process, the Ocean Protection Council released a partnership-based guide to long term management of California’s statewide network of marine Protected Areas (MPAs).  The California Collaborative Approach: Marine Protected Areas Partnership Plan outlines how the inclusive process that aided the creation of MPAs will contribute to managing them.  Focused on a shared vision of linking agencies and organizations across geographic scales, the Partnership Plan aims to tap into the existing energy, expertise and resources at the local scale through a network of local County Collaboratives.  Comprised of ocean stakeholders that are forming across coastal California, they will receive local input and undertake activities that foster ocean education and awareness, encourage sustainable recreational use, and promote ease of compliance with MPA protections.