SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA — California’s network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) is benefitting marine life, guiding future policy decisions on local ecosystems and providing researchers with greater understanding of diverse species found off the state’s coast.
These were among the findings and highlights of a report published by the California Ocean Trust and backed by the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife and Sea Grant.
Marine communities are positively responding to the creation of MPAs up and down the California coast, according to the report, titled “State of California’s South Coast.”
“Biomass of targeted fish species has increased in kelp and shallow rock ecosystems inside and outside of the northern Channel Islands MPAs (established in 2003),” the report stated. “Biodiversity in rocky intertidal ecosystems is significantly higher in ‘old’ MPAs (established before 2012) than outside, while ‘new’ MPAs show intermediate and highly variable biodiversity.”
The report also stated California’s coastal and marine ecosystems are interconnected.
San Diego was the most active region for “commercial passenger fishing vessels,” with 172,772 anglers boarding 94 boats out of H&M Landing, Seaforth Sportfishing, Fisherman’s Landing and others between 2000 and 2012, according to the report’s findings.
Anglers aboard these commercial passenger fishing vessels primarily caught rockfish, marine finfish, barred sand bass, kelp bass and California scorpionfish between 1992 and 2015, the report continued.
“In 2012 and 2013, the majority of non-consumptive coastal trips in the region occurred in Los Angeles County and the fewest occurred in Ventura County, with beach going, scenic enjoyment and biking or hiking as the most popular activities,” the report added.
Interestingly enough the report pointed out recreational fishing activity along California’s south coast has declined between 2010 and 2015.
“During the period of 2005–2015, estimated effort (number of angler trips) decreased from a region-wide high of approximately 2.5 million trips in 2006 to a low in 2011, with less than 1.7 million angler trips,” the report stated. “While the number of angler trips rebounded in 2012, effort slightly declined from 2013 to 2015, with approximately 1.9 million total trips in the south coast in 2015.
“The total estimated annual catch (number of fish examined and reported dead by angler) peaked at approximately 7.2 million fish in 2006 … [and] then declined to a region-wide low of approximately 3.9 million fish in 2015,” the report continued.
State wardens and officials issued about 760 MPA citations along California’s south coast between January 2012 and December 2015, according to the report.
“Among the violations, noncompliance with MPA regulations and boundaries occurred within 24 of the 50 South Coast MPAs. Los Angeles County, which includes Santa Catalina Island, accounted for 60 percent of those total violations, 15 percent mainland and 85 percent Catalina Island, respectively,” the report stated.
California’s south coast region, which includes Los Angeles and San Diego regions, supports more than 800,000 jobs and about $40 billion in ocean-dependent tourism.