ORANGE COUNTY — A study analyzing human activity at Orange County’s seven Marina Protected Areas (MPAs) in 2017 was recently released by one of the region’s most active environmental groups. The study found more than 21,000 people visited the local MPAs last year, with nearly six out of seven visitors, on average, participating in running, sunbathing or swimming activities. Boating, diving, snorkeling and surfing were the other observed activities.
Orange County Coastkeeper’s MPA Watch report, which relied upon volunteers observing various human activities while patrolling the local MPAs, added 98 percent of activities in the Marine Protected Areas were non-consumptive, meaning marine life was allowed “to thrive undisturbed.”
“Volunteers also counted 101 potential violations of MPA regulations,” an OC Coastkeeper statement issued with the MPA report said. “Coastkeeper says these potential violations demonstrate a need for continued community education to inform the public how to sustainably enjoy MPAs. The organization also calls for increased enforcement of MPA regulations to hold violators accountable.”
The Crystal Cove MPA – which is south of Newport Beach Harbor and north of Laguna Beach – had the highest number of offshore consumptive activities, according to OC Coastkeeper’s MPA Watch report. There were 60 offshore consumptive activities reported in the Crystal Cove MPA, according to the MPA Watch Report.
Dana Point – Outer Layer MPA had the second-most number of offshore consumptive activities with 43, according to the OC Coastkeeper report. There were 24 observed offshore consumptive activities in the Laguna Beach MPA and six observed offshore consumptive actives in the Upper Newport Bay – Inner Layer MPA.
OC Coastkeeper volunteers also observed 73 onshore consumptive activities in the Crystal Cove MPA and 50 onshore consumptive activities in the Upper Newport Bay – Inner Layer MPA, followed by Laguna Beach MPA (27) and Dana Point – Outer Layer MPA (25).
Onshore non-consumptive activities produced the lion’s share of observed activities, according to OC Coastkeeper’s statistics:
– Laguna Beach MPA, 8,560
– Crystal Cove MPA, 7,196
– Dana Point – Outer Layer MPA, 1,891
– Upper Newport Bay – Inner Layer MPA, 232.
Offshore non-consumptive activities were most frequent in the Laguna Beach MPA (1,245) and least frequent in the Dana Point – Outer Layer MPA (448). There were 789 observed offshore non-consumptive activities in the Crystal Cove MPA and 507 observed offshore non-consumptive activities in the Upper Newport Bay – Inner Layer MPA.
Orange County’s seven MPAs are:
– Bolsa Bay SMCA
– Bolsa Chica Basin No-Take SMCA
– Crystal Cove SMCA
– Dana Point SMCA
– Laguna Beach No-Take SMCA
– Laguna Beach SMR.
SMCA stands for State Marine Conservation Area, while SMR sis a State Marine Reserve.
MPAs have been a source of great debate in California. Environmental groups hail MPAs as a necessary tool to protect marine resources and threatened species. Angler groups, however, argue the MPA system is one of the leading reasons why angling participation has been steadily declining in California.
The OC Coastkeeper report was released June 4.
Photo Credit: California Department of Fish and Wildlife