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California Creates Nation's First Statewide Underwater Park System

June 7, 2012

California now has the nation's first statewide underwater park system.

The Fish and Game Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to adopt a network of Marine Protected Areas for northern California. The approval completes an eight-year plan to designate areas up and down the coast with the goal of protecting California's sea life.

Longtime fisherman Jim Webb was involved in creating the marine parks on the Central Coast. He says he's already seeing greater fish populations and more economic opportunities from increased tourism.

"Some MPAs were created to enhance recreational experiences, some were created to protect marine life populations, so different MPAs were designed for different purposes."

The protected areas were created through the Marine Life Protection Act of 1999. The underwater parks in northern and central California include Point Reyes, Fitzgerald Marine Reserve in San Mateo County, and Point Lobos.

Since the areas were designated, many students and ocean lovers have taken part in hands-on learning experiences to better understand the life beneath the waves. Groups, such as MPA Watch have also trained hundreds of volunteers to monitor the coast and protected areas. Webb considers the MPAs an insurance policy for future generations.

"I personally think it's a tribute to California that they're leading the charge in this regard, perhaps leading the whole nation, if not the world, in getting this network implemented."

Over the last eight years, conservationists, business owners, scientists, tribes, fishermen, recreational ocean users and government officials met up and down the coast to create the network.

More information is online at fgc.ca.gov.

Lori Abbott, Public News Service - CA