DFW proposes changes to MPA boundaries, definitions

By: Parimal M. Rohit

SANTA ROSA — A few gaps in how California’s Marine Protected Area (MPA) network is managed have apparently been cause for confusion and made it difficult for the state’s wardens to accurately enforce conservation measures.

Accordingly, the Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) proposed to alter one general provision and make amendments to 107 individual MPAs, including clarification of fish take, boundary refinements and designation changes.

Amanda Van Diggelen, an environmental scientist with DFW’s marine region, presented the proposed MPA regulation amendments at the Fish and Game Commission’s April 8 meeting in Santa Rosa.

One MPA proposed boundary amendment would impact waters just off Laguna Beach.

DFW proposed adjusting the shared boundary between Laguna Beach’s State Marine Reserve (SMR) and no-take State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA). The current shared boundary splits at Treasure Island Beach; DFW staff proposed moving the shared boundary 943 feet south to the city/county beach line to address municipality concerns.

“This shift would not influence fisherman or enforcement at all as it is in between two no-take areas,” Van Diggelen said, adding fishing is prohibited in all SMCAs and SMRs.

Overall, the boundary refinement proposals could make it easier to identify with greater accuracy where an MPA exists.

“These boundary refinements are meant to improve both accuracy and enforceability of the MPAs,” Van Diggelen said.

Another proposal would add an extra digit to the coordinates defining MPAs. Currently, the coordinates have two digits to the right of the decimal point, allowing state officials to pinpoint an MPA boundary within 60 feet of its true location. Adding a third digit would allow the state to identify an MPA border within 6 feet of its true location.

“It helps to really zone in on the area,” Van Diggelen said.

She added another proposal would move any given MPA boundary closer to its intended point of reference.

Such accuracy and specificity means it would be easier for state wardens and other law enforcement agencies to know what portion of the ocean is protected.

The general provision amendment would, according to Van Diggelen, rewrite DFW regulations “to streamline language and reduce redundancies.”

Current DFW regulations state no one may take any “living” marine resource from an MPA. Van Diggelen said this means an angler or boater might believe he or she could take an inanimate but natural object, such as a shell, from an MPA without violating state or federal law. DFW officials propose striking the word “living” from the regulation to maintain all natural elements of an MPA. Prohibiting the take of any marine living or nonliving marine resource would mean anything from fish to shells would be protected.

The proposed regulations are not yet final and the commission did not vote on any items presented by Van Diggelen. A public process to weigh in on the proposed amendments is about to begin, with a “notice” meeting set for August, followed by discussion and adoption hearings in October and December, respectively.

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