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Channel Islands Marine Protected Areas Conserving Marine Life

The Issue

The steady deterioration of marine resources in the California Channel Islands has led biologists and resource managers to question current approaches to fisheries management. No-take marine reserves can be used to supplement traditional fisheries and enhance fish populations. However, it is important to design reserves using sound ecological principles while maximizing long-term economic potential and also enhancing educational and research opportunities. State marine resource managers need strategies that incorporate the economic and conservation implications of different reserve network scenarios. Such strategies can help to rebuild California fisheries and the fish species and habitats they depend on.

What Has ANR Done?

Serving on the 17-person Marine Ecological Reserve Working Group (MRWG), UCCE Marine Advisor Deborah McArdle helped bridge the gap between science and policy in order to develop a network of reserves that were scientifically sound and acceptable to society. Other members of the Group included the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG), the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary (CINMS), the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Coastal Conservancy, and representatives of commercial and recreational fishing, kelp harvesting, etc.

McArdle, who at UC Santa Barbara had previously helped develop the science-based methodology used by the Group, provided copies of her 1997 publication, "California Marine Protected Areas"; gave presentations on existing MPAs; helped to facilitate small working group meetings with commercial fishermen and non-profit organizations; kept the Group informed of ongoing state, national and international MPA activities; posted the Group's activities on her international MPA listserv, and gave interviews to newspaper reporters. McArdle also provided a communication link between the MRWG members and the MRWG’s science panel.

After the reserves were approved by the California Fish and Game Commission in 2002, she continued to inform stakeholders and the public by designing and partially funding a 4-page publication in cooperation with CDFG and CINMS that describes the new MPAs at the Channel Islands.

The Payoff

Marine Protected Areas conserve fish and fish habitat at the Channel Islands

The Channel Islands MPA network, established in April, 2003, consists of 12 MPAs that cover 142 square nautical miles. Ten of the 12 MPAs (132 square nautical miles) are no-take reserves. The network design which McArdle helped to develop is science-based and incorporates stakeholder concerns. It improves state marine resource management and places California on the cutting edge of marine resource conservation worldwide. There also is now a local, state, national and international stakeholder community that is better informed about conservation and resource management due to McArdle's educational efforts during and after her participation on the MRWG.

The no-take reserves will enable fish to grow larger, more abundant and more fecund. This will ultimately benefit commercial and recreational fishermen in Santa Barbara County and throughout the state, since many species migrate. The reserves will also conserve the threatened and rare habitat that the fisheries depend on.


Supporting Unit: Santa Barbara County

Deborah McArdle, Marine Advisor, California Sea Grant Cooperative Extension, University of California
305 Camino del Remedio, Santa Barbara, CA 93110
(805) 448-5405 damcardle@ucdavis.edu