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1st Anniversary for CA's Underwater Parks

PHOTO: Fish swimming in one of California's Marine Protected Areas. December 19, 2013, is the one-year anniversary of the completion of California's statewide network of Marine Protected Areas.
PHOTO: Fish swimming in one of California's Marine Protected Areas. December 19, 2013, is the one-year anniversary of the completion of California's statewide network of Marine Protected Areas.
December 19, 2013

SAN DIEGO - California is celebrating the first anniversary of the completion of the state's network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). The 124 "underwater parks" can be found just offshore, from Oregon to Mexico. The Marine Protected Areas provide a safe haven for ocean wildlife and habitat, which is something San Diego resident Chuck Wheeler said he has witnessed firsthand.

As an avid fisherman, surfer and SCUBA diver, Wheeler said he has definitely seen an increase in sea life and a healthier kelp forest.

"I think that's what people who are going to enjoy these Marine Protected Areas are in search of," Wheeler said. "They're in search of a pleasurable experience and being submersed in the sea life."

The Marine Protected Areas are open for recreational uses, but are protected from some or all fishing so that sea life can rebound and thrive.

These areas were created through the landmark Marine Life Protection Act of 1999. Before the MLPA, less than 1 percent of California's waters were protected, compared to 16 percent now.

Wheeler said the MPAs are also good for the economy.

"The other thing that needs to have a light shined on it is that under the ocean is a magical place, and that people can really start looking at this as an actual tourist boom," he noted.

Aside from having the nation's only statewide network of Marine Protected Areas, California made history by designating protections on the North Coast that respect the right of indigenous tribes to continue to practice tribal ceremonies and harvesting.


Lori Abbott, Public News Service - CA