It’s easy to forget that meaningful change often happens in increments. Sometimes years go by until it becomes apparent that a fundamental change has occurred.
On the eve of World Oceans Day, The Otter Project would like to recognize one such meaningful change—California’s network of Marine Protected Areas (MPA).
It is often said that America’s system of national parks is among one of the best ideas this country has ever had. We submit that the formation of MPAs can be considered an extension of this great idea to include our ocean environment. As the bumper sticker says “My other state park is underwater.”
In January 2013, another piece of the statewide MPA network will fall into place with the North Coast region of MPAs coming online to protect a further 1,027 square miles of California coast.
From the Mexico border to the Oregon state line, California has set a nationwide precedent in creating a linked network of MPAs that are assisting in the rehabilitation of depleted fish stocks and aiding the restoration of its marine ecology.
It has been a hard fought road from the inception of the Marine Life Protection Act in 1999 through to the current network of MPAs, with opposition from special interest groups, funding issues and lack of political will being major obstacles.
From the beginning, The Otter Project has supported the development of these networks, taking an active role not only in their creation, but in helping to monitor their usage through our MPA Watch volunteer program in the Central Coast region.
With the ongoing challenges that ocean conversation groups face on a daily basis, World Oceans Day seems to be an appropriate time to reflect on the significance of this achievement.
Piece by piece, region by region, MPAs have been instituted through the combined effort of scientists, politicians, advocates and concerned ocean stewards.
As it did with Yosemite Valley way back in 1864, California is again demonstrating its commitment to being a guiding light for the protection of our natural heritage for future generations.