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CA Celebrates New Underwater State Parks


Friday, January 6, 2012   

SAN PEDRO, Calif. – California lawmakers may be back in session deciding which state parks to close because of budget cuts, but the state's newest "underwater" parks are celebrating their grand opening. The marine protected areas off the south coast include areas like La Jolla, Catalina Island and the Channel Islands.

The California Fish and Game Commission approved the parks in December 2010, and local ocean advocacy groups have been working hard since then to raise awareness and prepare for opening day. Mike Schaadt, director of San Pedro's Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, says the goal is to get people engaged and interested in the new underwater parks that are essentially in their backyard.

"Trying to get people to be aware of the health of that 'backyard' of ours is difficult to do. We have joined together with Southern California aquariums to educate the public, to get them involved, to make sure they know these areas are theirs."

The parks are part of the Marine Life Protection Act, making California the first state in the nation to have a comprehensive, science-based network of marine protected areas that stretch the length of the coast.

Later this month, on January 21, local groups on the front lines of ocean education will be celebrating the third annual Underwater Parks Day. Schaadt says each aquarium will have special programs about the new underwater parks.

"Videos, speakers, games for the children - ways to engage people so that they understand these places are out there, and what they can do in them. These are available for people to go and enjoy - they just can't take things from them."

The marine protected areas were planned by local fishermen, divers, business owners, and conservationists with advice from science and policy experts.

Information about the Marine Life Protection Act is online at www.dfg.ca.gov/mlpa/.

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