By Timothy Ray
Resident, Del Mar
Many of the country's foremost ocean experts descended on San Diego last month for the American Association of the Advancement of Sciences conference. It's fitting that they met here: a key theme of the conference is the use of marine reserves to protect and restore ocean health.
The research unveiled could not be more timely. Marine species are suffering off our coast, and pressures from development, climate change, fishing and habitat destruction are growing.
As a recreational scuba diver and competitive ocean swimmer pursuing a Ph.D. in Oceanography, I'm both personally and professional invested in the well-being of the sea. I spend a lot of time in the water and the ocean is both beautiful and fascinating to me.
But the ocean is in decline, and we need to act now to preserve California's iconic marine places.
Fortunately, we're on our way. Southern California is now enacting the Marine Life Protection Act. The Act calls for a network of scientifically designed underwater parks, or marine protection areas, along the coast.
At the AAAS conference, scientists discussed how well-designed marine reserves benefit both sea life and people in a special session called "Marine Reserves in a Changing World: Connecting Research with Human Needs." Discussed were several studies showing that marine reserves improve population size by an average of 300 percent and improve individual animal size by an average of 27 percent. Protected areas also act as nurseries, boosting populations and improving fishing in nearby open areas.
Well-designed ocean protections benefit not only fish but also to all people that rely on the sea for work and play. A virtue of the Marine Life Protection Act is that it recognizes the economic and cultural benefits that ocean resources provide to local communities. In fact, California's marine reserves are being designed to improve recreation, education, and economic opportunities along the coast.
The extensive body of scientific work on marine parks shows that they significantly increase populations of aquatic plants and animals while increasing the economic value of ocean resources. Establishing a strong network of MPAs is a good thing for California.