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Protected Waters around Channel Islands Will Help Rebuild Fishery Stocks, Biodiversity


Governor Davis today applauded the vote by the California Fish and Game Commission to formally create the largest network of marine reserves off the West Coast. The decision sets aside 132 square nautical miles (175 square miles) within the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary into 12 separate areas where fishing is not allowed.

"Today's action will allow all Californians to enjoy this diverse wildlife area, while restoring and preserving marine populations for future generations," Gov. Davis said. "As Governor, I've been pleased to provide record funding to purchase and preserve environmentally-precious land. I'm delighted that today's vote advances our goal of preserving California's natural resources for our children and our children's children."

The creation of the marine reserves establishes "safe zones" to reverse the alarming drop over the past decade in the population of several marine species that were once plentiful off the California coast. Examples of those depleted species include red snapper, angel sharks, and abalone.

The plan for a network of reserves (also known as Marine Protected Areas) was first proposed in 1998 by a group of sportsfishermen. In response, the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) and the Sanctuary launched a process that drew upon a group of stakeholders (known as the Marine Reserves Working Group) that developed a range of approaches to address the problem.

The stakeholder group included representatives from fishing groups, kelp harvesters, academia, environmental groups, and State and federal government. An independent blue-ribbon panel of experts advised the Working Group. Four large public forums were also held to receive public input. More than 9,000 public comments were received; the majority supported a reserve network in the Channel Islands.

The marine reserves extend around portions of state waters surrounding the five islands that form the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary off the coast of Santa Barbara: Anacapa, Santa Cruz, San Miguel, Santa Rosa and Santa Barbara Islands.

The alternative adopted by the Fish and Game Commission also includes a recreational-only fishing zone off Santa Cruz Island and an area with limited commercial and recreational fishing off Anacapa Island.

The next phase of this project would expand the network of reserves into federal waters - those lying beyond the three-mile boundary of state water that encircle each island. The full system of marine reserves would cover 322 nautical miles (426 square miles) and once adopted by the federal government would make California the home of the largest network of marine reserves in the continental United States.

California has a strong record in preserving its environment. Through efforts from Gov. Davis, California has purchased or preserved 6,200 acres of urban park land, 16,600 acres of San Francisco Bay wetlands, and 7,500 acres of the "Headwaters" forest.