Get to know your neighbors: Mola

A sunfish (Mola mola) swims near the surface off San Diego, California.

I am the ocean sunfish, also known as the Mola mola. Some people call me the alien of the sea because, well, I look like an alien! I’m a silver color, with very rough, thick, mucus-lined skin, and it looks like I’m only half a fish because where I should have a back fin, I have a clavus. When I was born, my back fin didn’t grow; instead, it folded into itself. This is a feature that defines all mola. I’m also told that I always look surprised because I have wide eyes and can’t close my mouth. Instead of having individual teeth, I have a beak-like structure, forcing me to always keep my mouth open. This also prevents me from chewing! I eat my food by sucking it in and out of my mouth until it turns into a mush that I can swallow. I prefer to eat jellyfish because they’re already pretty squishy and relatively easy to swallow. My digestive track is also lined with mucus to protect me against stings!

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Going Wild at IMPAC4 in Chile

By Serge Dedina, Executive Director

WILDCOAST has the opportunity to participate in the 4th Annual International Marine Protected Area Congress in La Serena, Chile. Given, Chile’s recent globally important record of creating vast marine reserves including new ones just off of Rapa Nui and Southern Patagonia, there wasn’t a more appropriate location.

There were participants from all over the world, with a great perspective all the ingredients that go into creating marine reserves.

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WILDCOAST and the Philippines’ Collaborate for Ocean Conservation

One of over 7,000 islands in the Philippines.

Last week I departed on a two-week journey to the Philippines to help facilitate an intensive training with the Philippines Department of Environment and Natural Resources, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and United States Agency for International Development to enhance the Philippines marine protected area network. Based on WILDCOAST’s experience in California, Mexico and Cuba, I was asked to be a facilitator, with a group of local mentors, to train over 60 MPA managers from across the Philippine archipelago.

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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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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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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.