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Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Input Requested for MPA Monitoring Plan

• Implementation Is Still Anticipated for ‘Middle of 2011’

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN

The first draft of the South Coast Region's Marine Protected Area Monitoring Plan has been released, and public input is being solicited.
The Marine Life Protection Act Implementation Plan involves the creation of 36 new MPAs from Point Conception to the Mexican Border, including a Point Dume MPA, which will limit or prohibit fishing activities from the western end of Paradise Cove to El Matador State Beach.
The new MPAs are anticipated to officially go into effect later this year.
The 279-page monitoring plan was developed by the MPA Monitoring Enterprise, launched in 2007 as a program of the California Ocean Science Trust to development and implement what is described on the enterprise's website as “impartial, scientifically rigorous and cost-effective marine protected area monitoring.”
It’s not a light read, despite a number of colorful charts and graphs presumably designed to make the data more accessible. The “primary intended audiences” for the document are the Department of Fish and Game and the Fish and Game Commission, MPA stakeholders, existing and potential partners in conducting MPA monitoring, and existing and potential funders of MPA monitoring,” but the public is also encouraged to participate
The draft “is not a monitoring work plan or a monitoring implementation plan,” the document states. “Rather, it presents a framework and approach to monitoring that includes guidance for setting monitoring priorities, including prioritizing the elements of monitoring to be implemented, selecting the scale at which prioritized elements will be implemented and designing the sampling or monitoring data collection plan appropriately.
The monitoring plan is described as a “living document,” that will be managed adaptively, evaluated, refined and updated.”
Under the MLPA, regional MPA networks must meet six goals, which include “ecological and socioeconomic goals.”
The document states that “the broad scope of the MLPA goals leads to an ecosystem-based focus to MPA monitoring, which allows assessment of effectiveness of the MPAs in protecting populations, species, habitats, and ecosystems and explicitly includes humans.”
The draft includes management plans for ecosystems and also focuses on consumptive and non-consumptive uses.
“In the South Coast region, large numbers of residents and visitors enjoy shore-based and/or on-water non-consumptive recreational activities, including beach going, diving, kayaking, and wildlife viewing,” the document states.
“An explicit goal of the adopted MPA network is to increase recreational, study and educational opportunities in ways consistent with protection of biodiversity.
“Illegal non-consumptive activities can also be a challenge, particularly for coastal MPAs featuring accessible populations of charismatic wildlife,” the plan states.
“MPA monitoring must be designed to facilitate detection of the effects of such activities, and be informed by available information on non-compliance with MPA regulations.
“Integrated analysis will be required to examine the effects of multiple system drivers and influences in order to reveal MPA-related changes in patterns of non-consumptive uses.”
Two sample-monitoring programs are presented in the draft, “to reflect two hypothetical regional MPA monitoring budget scenarios, of $1 million and $2 million annually.”
The draft details a spending plan for each scenario over the course of four years of data collection, leading to “analysis and reporting in the fifth year, in order to inform the five-year reviews recommended by the MLPA Master Plan.”
According to the draft, “the cost estimates for individual components of monitoring assume leveraging of funds comparable to MPA monitoring programs conducted to date, such as in the Channel Islands, the North Central and Central Coast regions.
“Additionally, Department of Fish and Game core costs, such as for staff, are not included. Nonetheless, the spending plans include the majority of anticipated new costs of MPA monitoring in the South Coast region, tailored to take best advantage of the two hypothetical budget scenarios.”
The MPA Monitoring Enterprise is also leading the implementation of the South Coast MPA Baseline Program.
The California Ocean Protection Council has authorized $4 million to help support the baseline program, which will be the first step in implementing MPA monitoring, according to the report.
The full text of the monitoring plan and forms to submit comments are available online at http://monitoringenterprise.org

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