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January 12, 2015


Bob Fields photo

Despite the urban hustle of Southern California, the
ocean offshore is a blue wilderness. The Southern
California Bight, extending from Point Conception to
the U.S.–Mexico border, is home to some of the most
important coastal and marine ecosystems on the planet.
In San Diego County, gray whales swim by Point Loma
on their way to and from their breeding lagoons in Baja
California. Leopard sharks can be found in the azure
waters of La Jolla Shores. Osprey hunt for prey in the
wetlands of San Elijo, Batiquitos, San Dieguito and
Famosa Slough. Garibaldi dart through eel grass beds
that blanket Cardiff’s rocky reefs. In July, the largest
school of anchovies in more than 30 years appeared in
the waters just offshore from the Scripps Institution of
Oceanography in La Jolla.

Luckily, these coastal and marine ecosystems in Southern California are now preserved as Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). Established in 2012, the MPAs were set aside by the State of California for the recovery of fisheries and ecosystem health that were in decline after decades of
overfishing and overtake. These underwater parks, rich in marine wildlife, are important resources for recreation and education.

WILDCOAST is working with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, partner agencies and volunteers to conserve the 17,536 acres of San Diego County’s 11 MPAs. Through outreach, education and monitoring we are strengthening the stewardship of these areas. In 2014, we developed and installed 14 “You Are Here” signs in San Diego County at key MPA access points.

Over 58 volunteers were trained to carry out citizen science human use surveys as part of the statewide MPA Watch Program. We also launched California’s first Junior and Wetland MPA Watch Programs. Integral to our success has been our role as the lead agency of the San Diego County MPA Community Collaborative. In 2014, the Collaborative, a partnership of over 40 agencies, institutions and organizations, addressed key components of MPA implementation such as enforcement, monitoring and public engagement.

Most rewarding in 2014 were our partnerships with the California Coastal Conservancy, Outdoor Outreach and the Girl Scouts; we trained 68 students from low-income communities in San Diego County to become active MPA stewards. For many, it was their first contact with our Southern California coastline, and reminded us why it is so critical to help preserve our coast and ocean for
current and future generations.