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Saving the BOFFFs – Big Ol’ Fat Female Fish

July 30, 2009

Sacramento, CA - Ocean scientists plan to unveil at the state capitol today a new consensus statement on the effectiveness of marine reserves for restoring the health of the Pacific Ocean. Their findings are expected to help inform the California Fish and Game Commission as it finalizes plans for a marine protected area (MPA) network that will stretch from Half Moon Bay to Mendocino.

Bob Breen, naturalist and retired manager of Fitzgerald Marine Life Refuge in Moss Beach, says during his 35 years working at the Refuge, he witnessed a dramatic decline of fish. He believes the MPAs will help protect the fish, especially the most valuable "BOFFFs" - which stands for "big, old, fat, female fish."

"They become big and old and fat because they're left alone and they're not killed by fishing mortality. The larger body size is extremely important, because the older they get, the bigger they get, and the more eggs they produce.

Commercial fisherman claim the fishing ban within the MPAs is hurting their business. However, Breen says not only do the adult fish migrate out of the protected areas, but so do their young, adding the underwater parks benefit everyone.

"They're effective within their boundaries, they're effective outside their boundaries. They will protect our marine heritage, our kelp beds, our marine canyons and our rocky reefs for future generations."

The scientists agree the ocean's ecosystem is deteriorating and many important fisheries are on the decline. In the past, they say MPAs have proven to work and would help improve the fish populations and marine life in California's coastal waters.

The Ocean Conservancy and Natural Resources Defense Council will unveil the scientist consensus statement at 10:00 a.m. outside the state capitol.

Lori Abbott, Public News Service - CA