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Protecting What’s Under the Waves Gets a Look From Above



October 1, 2010

SAN DIEGO - When it comes to California's coastlines, sometimes protecting what's under the waves requires a look from high above. This weekend, a group of volunteer pilots will gather in San Diego for the annual LightHawk Fly-in. The members of the nonprofit organization donate flights to help improve conservation efforts with this year's focus on the creation of Marine Protected Areas, or MPAs.

Pilot Jo Duffy says she's able to give researchers and biologists a birds-eye perspective of the coastline.

"So, I take them at 1,500 feet off the water, and we fly down the coastline from Point Conception down to the Mexican border. Biologists are then documenting all the vessels that they see and whether there's fishing activity or not."

That information will help scientists map out areas for possible protection under the Marine Life Protection Act of 1999. It's the first state law to mandate the creation of a state-wide network of MPAs, with the goals of better protection for marine habitats and replenishing fish and wildlife populations.

During her 10 years as a pilot, Duffy's seen the impacts a growing population and pollution have had on the coast. She says she can also start to see the improvements made by the MPAs that have already been established.

"Once you have this sustainable pockets that are not being disturbed you can do all the fishing you want outside, and there will always be more coming out of these areas so that there will be enough for everyone."

More info at www.lighthawk.org and www.caloceans.org.

Lori Abbott, Public News Service - CA
 

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