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Big Fish Tale Gets Even Bigger Off California Coast

February 11, 2008

Oxnard, CA – There's an explosion of sea life around California's Channel Islands. Bigger and healthier fish are thriving in safe havens established five years ago. Results from the first studies of the "marine protected areas" (MPAs) have found that there are not only more kinds of fish, but they're larger and more fertile. John Ugoretz is with the California Department of Fish and Game.

"Fish in particular, as they get bigger, produce many, many, many more babies -- their reproductive capacity increases, which is a really important factor in sustaining the species over time."

Ugoretz says while it appears the MPA designation is helping the fish population, more time is needed to assess their impact, especially when studying fish that live 50 to 100 years. Many in the commercial fishing industry claim the fishing ban in some areas has hurt their business. However, studies show as the fish grow in size and abundance, they will leave the protected areas, thereby helping to sustain commercial fishing.

Ugoretz says the goal is not to deprive commercial fishing interests, but to create sustainable fisheries for the future.

"It's not that we want to lock everything up in parks and prevent people from fishing. Rather, we want to be sure that our children and our grandchildren have fish to see, fish to catch, fish to eat and fish to buy."

The state plans to establish a series of MPAs along the entire coast of California by 2011. More information can be found online at channelislands.noaa.gov.

Lori Abbott/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - CA