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Pacific Ocean Protection Law Turns 10

October 9, 2009

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Saturday marks the tenth anniversary of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA). It was the first state law that mandated the creation of a state-wide network of marine protected areas, with the goals of better protection for marine habitats and replenishing fish and wildlife populations. They're often called the "Yosemites of the sea."

Former California Assemblyman Fred Keeley was the Act's original author and says, by the mid-1990s, it was clear the pressure on the Pacific had grown and that new public policy based on sustainability was needed.

"What you end up with is a much, much healthier ocean environment. The species that do exist in there are more robust and more plentiful."

While some areas may be off-limits to fishing or limited to certain species, Keeley says the idea is to treat the ocean as an environment.

"We don't want to try to deal with protecting all the species in the ocean species-by-species, but instead treat it as what it is - it is an entire eco-system."

In the ten years since the MLPA has been in effect, the state has completed protections on the central coast between Half Moon Bay and Santa Barbara, and it recently adopted plans to create a network along the north central coast between Half Moon Bay and Mendocino County. The governor-appointed Blue Ribbon Task Force will meet to review the regional stakeholder-drafted plans for the south coast, and make a recommendation to the Fish & Game Commission on Oct. 22.

Some commercial fishermen believe the new preserves will close too much of the ocean to fishing, but Keeley says the protected areas have left at least 90 percent of the ocean open to fishing.

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