In response to a landmark state ocean bill signed into law last year, top state agencies are taking aggressive steps to protect California’s coastline and marine habitats from overfishing and pollution. The new law, the California Ocean Protection Act (COPA), builds on recommendations by the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy and Pew Oceans Commission, whose recent research revealed that the nation’s ocean and coastal resources are in serious decline. COPA created the Ocean Protection Council, which met for the first time last month, and revitalizes the 1999 Marine Life Management Act (MLMA). That act, which called for an expanded network of protected marine areas in California, is now finally being implemented with both public funds authorized under copa and substantial private support.
Under the initiative, stakeholders will draft a plan for the expansion of protected areas along California’s coast. Currently, the state designates 4.3 percent of coastal waters as marine protected areas, which fall under three new classifications that restrict or ban commercial and recreational fishing, simplifying what was a jumble of 17 possible classifications, says Paul Reilly, state Department of Fish and Game senior marine biologist.