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EMBARGOED FOR RELEASE UNTIL: FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 8, 2002 AT 9 AM
Press contact: Karen Garrison, NRDC, 415-777-0220; Dr. Rod Fujita, Environmental Defense, 510-658-8008; Warner Chabot, The Ocean Conservancy, 415-979-0900
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Save California's "Underwater Yosemite" In The Channel Islands, Urge Environmental Leaders And Local Citizens' Club

Groups Endorse State Preferred Alternative for Channel Islands Marine Reserves

SACRAMENTO, CA (February 8, 2002) -- A local sportfishing and diving organization and three leading environmental organizations joined together in calling for better stewardship of California's "underwater Yosemite" at the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary near Santa Barbara, California. The groups endorsed the Department of Fish and Game's "preferred alternative" plan, which calls for establishing a network of marine reserves covering almost 25% of the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. This plan was developed in a nearly three-year, 17-member stakeholder process jointly sponsored by the federal Sanctuary and the state. "This is a landmark plan to provide balanced protection for future generations of fish, fishermen, divers, and the public," said Warner Chabot, Vice President for Regional Operations at The Ocean Conservancy. "The Fish and Game Commission should approve the Department's preferred alternative to restore and protect the amazing diversity of marine life in California's 'Underwater Yosemite' at the Channel Islands."

Steve Roberson, a spokesperson for the Channel Islands Marine Resource Restoration Committee (CIMRRC), the group of local sport fishermen and divers who first petitioned to establish marine reserves in the Channel Islands in 1998, said, "As an original proponent of marine reserves at the Islands, I find the Department's preferred alternative a balanced, fair proposal that will help stop the alarming decline of fish and wildlife in the Channel Islands without undue harm to our fishing communities. As sport fisher speaking for a group of anglers and divers, I ask the Fish and Game Commission what we first asked three years ago: act now to protect the Channel Islands."

The groups noted that scientific advisors to the Channel Islands stakeholders and the federal government have supported the conservation recommendations. The Science Advisory Panel for the Channel Islands Marine Reserve Working Group (SAP) had earlier suggested that 30-50% of the Sanctuary should be protected in marine reserves. The Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) for the Pacific Fishery Management Council (the body that advises west coast federal fishery managers), has stated that, "the SSC is generally supportive of their [SAP] reserve size recommendation as it relates to the biodiversity and sustainable fisheries goals as defined in the specific context of CINMS." Scientists from the SSC and the SAP will be presenting their findings and recommendations to the Commission at Friday's meeting.

Karen Garrison, Senior Policy Analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council, referred to a letter sent to the Governor on December 6, 2001, signed by 50 environmental groups representing a combined membership of nearly 1 million California citizens. "Currently, far less than 1% of the Sanctuary is fully protected. The public supports creating safe havens for sea life, and the state has a mandate to preserve healthy marine ecosystems for future generations," she said. "The preferred alternative is a sound plan to protect the crown jewels of California's ocean waters."

"The California coast cannot afford to wait any longer," said Richard Charter, Marine Conservation Advocate of Environmental Defense. "The scientific evidence gained from decades of experience elsewhere clearly demonstrates that carefully-designed marine reserves are one of the best ways to restore the types of ecosystem degradation that we are seeing today in the Channel Islands. History will be the judge of whether we - fishermen, environmentalists, and politicians - have restored and protected California's coastal resources."

Note to Reporters: The California Fish and Game Commission meeting on Friday, February 8, 2002 begins at 9AM in the Resources Agency Auditorium, 1416 9th Street, Sacramento. Public testimony on the Department of Fish & Game's preferred alternative and the other alternatives, as well as on the scientific basis for the preferred alternative, is scheduled as Agenda Items #7 & #6. For more information visit the Fish and Game website or contact Chamois Andersen, Department of Fish and Game, (916) 657-4132.

For copies of the letter signed by 50 environmental organizations and sent to Governor Davis on December 6, 2001, please contact Warner Chabot, The Ocean Conservancy, (415) 979-0900.

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, non-profit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has more than 500,000 members nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Environmental Defense, a leading national nonprofit organization based in New York, represents more than 300,000 members. Since 1967 we have linked science, economics, and law to create innovative, equitable, and cost-effective solutions to the most urgent environmental problems.

Through science-based advocacy, research, and public education, The Ocean Conservancy informs, inspires, and empowers people to speak and act for the oceans in order to protect ocean ecosystems and conserve the global abundance and diversity of marine wildlife. Headquartered in Washington, DC, The Ocean Conservancy has regional offices in Alaska, California, Florida, and New England and field offices in Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz, CA, Florida Keys, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the office of Pollution Prevention and Monitoring in Virginia Beach, VA.

Related NRDC Pages
Keeping Oceans Wild
BioGems: Channel Islands

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