When new protections for marine areas from the Oregon border to Point Arena go into effect Dec. 19, it will not only be great news for seabirds and other marine wildlife, but it will also mark the completion of the state’s new network of coastal reserves.
“The incredible diversity and abundance of marine birds and wildlife along the North Coast is a big part of what makes this place special,” said Anna Weinstein, Audubon California’s seabird program manager. “With the network finally complete, this is a great day for wildlife and people in the North Coast and across the state.”
The protections were approved by the California Fish and Game Commission in June following recommendations from a state-appointed stakeholder group that included commercial fishermen and conservationists. Audubon California, Mendocino Coast Audubon, and partners led intense negotiations resulting essential new protections for Ashy Storm-petrel, Marbled Murrelet, Tufted Puffin, Brandt’s cormorant, Common Murre, Brant, and Snowy Plover – to name a few.
Specific protections at locations such as Rockport Rocks, Cape Mendocino, South Humboldt Bay, and the Navarro River Estuary – among others – will protect sensitive breeding spots and important sources of food resources for seabirds.
“As a longtime resident of this area, and a former fisherman, I am thrilled about these new protections for our marine wildlife,” said Dave Jensen who, as president of Mendocino Audubon, participated in the negotiations that led to the final recommendations. “I am proud of the way our community pulled together to generate this outcome.”
The Marine Life Protection Act, passed by the Legislature in 1999, requires the state to protect and restore California’s coastal ecosystems by establishing a network of marine reserves to safeguard species and habitats while at the same time accommodating the needs of fishing and recreation. The Act divided California into five study areas, which each needed to be approved by the Commission. The first area completed was for the Central Coast in 2007. The North Coast completes the process.
The North Coast study area covers the area from the Oregon border to Point Arena in Mendocino County. The proposal approved by the Fish and Game Commission assigns 13 percent of the overall study area with High to Very High protection. Additionally, the proposal will create seven special closure zones, where no vessels may enter, to protect seabirds and marine mammals from disturbance.
This area supports more than 40 percent of California’s seabirds. In all, 13 seabird species – 250,000 total birds – rely on the North Coast area for breeding and foraging. Audubon representatives successfully argued that this abundance and diversity were natural treasures that merited protection.
About Audubon California
AudubonCaliforniais building a better future forCaliforniaby bringing people together to appreciate, enjoy and protect our spectacular outdoor treasures. With more than 100,000 members in California and an affiliated 48 local Audubon chapters, Audubon California is a field program of the National Audubon Society. More information is available at www.ca.audubon.org.