October 20 – Hundreds of Supporters Urge Fish & Game Commission to Choose Strong Network of Marine Protected Areas in San Diego

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SAN DIEGO- Oct. 20, 2010- Nearly 700 supporters of marine protected areas (MPAs) filed into an over-capacity meeting room at the Four Points by Sheraton for today’s California Fish and Game Commission meeting. Amidst a sea of blue shirts—the color worn by those supporting marine protected areas (MPAs)– students, surfers, elected officials, divers, fishers, business leaders and conservationists urged the commission to choose a strong network of MPAs for the Southern California coastline. Today’s meeting was the last public hearing regarding implementation of the Marine Life Protection Act before the Fish & Game Commission approves in December an established network of MPAs—akin to underwater parks– in Southern California.

San Diego Coastkeeper representatives estimate attendance at more than 1,000 people. According to Coastkeeper’s Kate Hanley, the majority of participants expressed their support for the strongest possible MPA network for the south coast.

“We’ve been waiting for 11 years,” said San Diego resident and south La Jolla spearfisherman Mike Laude. “It’s about time the Fish & Game Commission did their job to protect our ocean so that we have fish for future generations.”

At today’s meeting, local supporters of all ages and interests shared their reasons for requesting the commission to preserve habitats along San Diego’s coastline. Over a half dozen local schools, complete with speeches and student projects, attended the meeting to express their concerns about preserving ocean habitats. Coastkeeper representatives presented support postcards for MPAs in south La Jolla and at Swamis in Encinitas that more than 550 San Diego residents signed. All together, the commission received more than 3,000 of the postcards expressing the need for MPAs along the south coast. Other presenters gave the commission support letters signed by kayakers, fisherman and ocean enthusiasts.

“According to a Public Policy Institute of California poll, more than 70 percent of Southern Californians support strong marine protection. That was certainly reflected in the diversity of ocean user groups speaking up today asking for the greatest possible protections along our coast,” said Hanley. “With more than 60 public meetings and 100 hours of comment over the past two years, it’s time for the commission to set in place a strong network of marine protected areas that the public wants.”

In addition to the letters of support from individuals, a Coastkeeper representative presented the commission with a signed statement of consensus from more than 135 businesses in California that endorse MPAs, and that join the growing list of 59 elected officials who have publicly stated their support.

“This is an issue that is near and dear to all of our residents’ hearts,” said City of Encinitas Deputy Mayor Maggie Houlihan in her public testimony to the commission. In talking about MPAs, she said they “protect the present and future quality of life for the economic vitality of our beaches” and asked the commission for the “highest level of protection at Swamis.”  

Other elected officials in attendance at the meeting supporting strong protections for Southern California coastline included City of Del Mar Councilmember Crystal Crawford, Redondo Beach Councilmember Bill Brand, San Diego Unified School District Board President Richard Barrera and former Mayor of Laguna Beach Ann Christoph and representatives from the offices of State Senator Christine Kehoe, Congressman Bob Filner and Supervisor Pam Slater-Price.

The final Fish & Game Commission meeting, where it will sign into law the network of marine protected areas in Southern California, will take place in Santa Barbara in December.

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Founded in 1995, San Diego Coastkeeper protects the region’s inland and coastal waters for the communities and wildlife that depend on them by blending education, community empowerment and advocacy. Visit us online at http://localhost/sdcoastkeeper.