California Establishes Major Marine Reserve Network

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The California Fish and Game Commission announced last week that it was creating the nation"s second largest network of marine reserves off that state"s central coast in order to protect and help restore depleted fisheries there. The new network encompasses 29 marine protected areas from Santa Barbara to Santa Cruz. Commercial and most sport fishing will be banned in an area covering about 200 square miles of coastal waters.

“Today’s milestone makes California a national leader in oceans management and is proof of what can be done when all those involved—the fishing industry, environmentalists and others—work together,” Calfornia governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said.

With some fish stocks throughout the area falling off by as much as 95 percent in recent years, Schwarzenegger agreed with fishery regulators that the time for action is now. While previous fisheries management regulations in the area limited the number of various types of fish that fishermen could catch, the new reserves take a larger view by protecting entire marine ecosystems.

California"s new marine reserve network is the first implemented near major urban centers and will greatly affect the livelihoods of thousands of commercial fishermen. The world"s largest marine reserve was created this past June when President George W. Bush created the Northwest Hawaiian Islands National Monument, protecting a strip of remote Pacific Ocean waters about 100 miles wide and 1,200 miles long.