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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Ocean Protection Council Awards $4 Million for MPA Monitoring Plans

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN

The Ocean Protection Council has awarded $4 million to support initial monitoring of the newly designated South Coast Marine Protected Areas, including Point Dume in Malibu. The MPAs are scheduled to officially go into effect on Oct. 1.
According to the press release, the monitoring projects, which will collect baseline information for up to three years, “will target marine life and habitats, as well as commercial and recreational activities, inside and outside the protected areas in the South Coast region from Point Conception in Santa Barbara County to the California/Mexico border.”
The South Coast MPA Baseline Program is a collaboration of the Ocean Protection Council, MPA Monitoring Enterprise, Department of Fish and Game, Ocean Science Trust and California Sea Grant.
According to the press release, the projects funded through the program were solicited through a public call for proposals and were selected through a competitive, peer-review process administered by California Sea Grant.
“Through the South Coast MPA Baseline Program, teams of researchers,citizen-scientists and fishermen will survey the region's sandy beaches, rocky shores, kelp beds and deep-water ecosystems inside and outside the network of new MPAs. These surveys will include ecologically and economically important species of fishes and invertebrates, as well as a range of human activities, such as commercial and recreational fishing, and non-consumptive recreation such as tide-pooling, bird watching and scuba diving.
“Researchers will combine new and historical data, collected inside and outside the MPAs, to document key aspects of the region’s ecological and socioeconomic characteristics at or near the time of MPA implementation. From this, they will be able to document initial changes in marine habitats, species, fisheries and recreation that may be associated with the new MPAs. The results of these projects will lay the foundation for future assessments of the effectiveness of the MPAs in meeting the goals of the Marine Life Protection Act.”
The Ocean Protection Council has authorized approximately $16 million to support MPA baseline characterization in the Central, North Central, South and North Coast regions. Selected projects are required to provide at least 25 percent matching funds or in-kind contributions for each baseline project.
More information is available at www.csgc.ucsd.edu
Heal the Bay is one of the organizations involved in collecting baseline data. The organization's citizen science-based monitoring program volunteers routinely traverse the beach in the vicinity of the Point Dume-area MPAs.
In response to concerns raised by fishing advocates, Heal the Bay stresses that “MPA Watch is unbiased data collection, based solely on trained volunteer observations. This data will help with interpretation of biological data being taken inside and outside MPAs by other groups.”
A two-day training session for new volunteers is planned for Aug. 1 at the Santa Monica Pier, and Aug. 2 in the field. More information is available at: www.healthebay.org/get-involved/volunteer/mpa-watch.

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