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California Fish Populations Booming In Protected Coastal Areas

September 11, 2008

San Diego, CA - There's an underwater population boom taking place along portions of the California coastline. A study by the University of California at San Diego documents an explosion of sea life in the marine reserve at La Jolla Cove, an area off-limits to fishing. Not only are there more fish, but they're bigger and healthier, says Tom Ford, of the conservation group Santa Monica Baykeeper.

"We see greater abundance, greater diversity, and oftentimes an increase in the individual size of the fish, which is why I think a lot of us are excited about the potential of marine protected areas."

Divers spent four years collecting data in the reserve, an area that covers less than one square mile. They also found the highest density of kelp bass recorded in the Southern California Bight in the last four decades.

Commercial fishermen have claimed the fishing ban is hurting their business, but Ford suggests they look at it another way - because young fish migrate out of the protected areas, along with the adult fish. He's convinced the study proves the effectiveness of marine protected areas in rebuilding fish populations.

"Our oceans are under a great deal of stress in many cases due to fishing pressure and unsustainable practices, and a network of marine protected areas will go a long way to securing a sustainable coastal ocean."

Under the Marine Life Protection Act, marine reserves will soon be established from Point Conception to the Mexican border. To the north, Oregon is also considering a plan to create up to ten marine reserves along its coastline.

For more information about the research, visit

Lori Abbott/Kevin Clay, Public News Service - CA