(August 9, 2007) –
Federal officials today added 145 square miles to a network of marine protected areas surrounding the Channel Islands off Southern California, doubling the range of protected underwater habitat and making it the nation’s second-biggest network of marine reserves after the Northwest Hawaiian Islands National Monument. The long awaited move will help bring back the islands’ world-famous ocean wildlife, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and The Ocean Conservancy.
The first half of the joint state-federal marine protected network was created by California in 2003. Today’s federal action extends the boundaries of those protected areas from three to six miles from shore.
“We’re seeing signs that the marine reserves already are succeeding,” said Kate Wing, an ocean policy analyst at NRDC who has been working to protect the Channel Islands since 2000. “Now that the network is complete, we look forward to seeing even more and bigger fish in the future.”
The effort to protect the Channel Islands began in 1999 when a group of local sport fishermen noticed that large fish were becoming scarce in the area. They asked the state and the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary for help protecting the islands’ astonishing diversity of underwater wildlife.
“Over the years, thousands of Californians and people from around the world have voiced their support for protecting these incredible islands,” said Greg Helms, Santa Barbara program director for the Ocean Conservancy. “It’s gratifying to see this legacy come true.”
Sitting offshore from Santa Barbara, the Channel Islands receive coldwater currents from the north and warmer waters from the south, making them especially rich in sea life. Blue whales, sea lions, and dolphins visit the islands, while giant seabass and bright orange Garibaldi swim through kelp forests.
Scientific studies have shown that creating safe havens for fish allows them to grow larger and more numerous than in unprotected areas. The National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Pew Ocean Commission and the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy have all recommended that the United States safeguard key habitats and marine wildlife with marine protected areas.
is working to create a network of marine protected areas off its entire coast under the state’s landmark Marine Life Protection Act. A network for the first of four state regions — from Point Conception to Santa Cruz – is expected to be in place this September.