New marine protected areas (MPAs) will go into effect Jan. 1, 2012 from Point Conception in Santa Barbara County to the U.S./Mexico border. Last week, the state Office of Administrative Law approved the regulatory package put forward by the California Fish and Game Commission (Commission) that sets rules and boundaries for the south coast MPAs.
Nearly one year ago the Commission adopted regulations to create a suite of MPAs in the south coast region. Developed pursuant the California Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA), this network of 50 MPAs (including 13 pre-existing MPAs retained at the northern Channel Islands) and two special closures covers approximately 354 square miles of state waters and represents approximately 15 percent of the region.
On Jan. 1, Department of Fish and Game (DFG) wardens will begin enforcing regulations in the MPAs. Wardens will take appropriate enforcement actions starting on that day which could include education, warning, citation or arrest depending on the violation. In MPAs where commercial lobster fishing will be prohibited, commercial lobster traps may remain in the water until Jan. 6 if the door or doors to such traps are wired open, the trap is unbaited, the buoy remains at the surface of the ocean and no attempt is made to take spiny lobsters.
Final regulations and maps for all MPAs can be found at www.dfg.ca.gov/mlpa/scmpas_list.asp.
DFG’s MPA mobile website, located at www.dfg.ca.gov/m/MPA, has also been updated to reflect the new MPAs going into effect Jan. 1. The mobile website allows the public to search for any current MPA by name, county or general area to find information about the MPA’s boundaries and regulations, and use an interactive map to locate any MPA and learn about its boundaries and regulations. Mobile device users can also find and track their current location using the device’s GPS, locate the closest MPA(s) to determine whether or not the user is currently located within an MPA, and read a summary of regulations or the complete regulations for any MPA.
For more information on the south coast MPAs or MLPA, please visit www.dfg.ca.gov/mlpa/southcoast.asp.