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Scientists Set 2020 Goal For Reversing Pacific Ocean Degradation

Publication Date: 
May 27, 2009
Inside Bay Area
Suzanne Bohan

Senior Lecturer in Law Margaret "Meg" Caldwell, interim Director of the Center for Ocean Solutions, is quoted in Inside Bay Area in an article about the health of the Pacific Ocean:

This month, the Center for Ocean Solutions and Stanford University's Hopkins Marine Station released a scientific consensus that spells out the grim consequences of inaction in reversing the threats of overfishing, pollution and habitat destruction, while providing a road map to recovery.

"The consensus statement is really giving voice to the scientific community," said Meg Caldwell, interim director of the Center for Ocean Solutions in Monterey. "That there are scientific underpinnings to support strong policies."

"You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out how to address those threats," she added.

A straightforward solution for protecting the size of fish populations while also supporting commercial and recreational fishing, for example, is the creation of what are called marine protected areas.

California pioneered the concept with the 1999 passage of the Marine Life Protection Act. It permits a temporary or permanent ban on harvesting in designated areas, creating small nurseries where marine species can reproduce and raise their young without human predation. The state law followed a successful program years earlier in the Monterey Bay that set aside small "no-take" zones. Researchers noticed a growth in marine life throughout the bay afterward, as juvenile marine life had a healthier start, and more survived.

The 1999 law took a new approach to managing marine resources, Caldwell said. It moved agencies away from "a 150-year-old tradition of single-species management to an ecosystem conservation approach," she said.

Caldwell and Davies also struck an optimistic note.

"While the problems are serious, there are signs of hope," Caldwell said, pointing to the establishment of 29 marine protected areas along the Central Coast of California, covering 18 percent of the region's coastal waters between Pigeon Point in San Mateo County to Point Conception in Santa Barbara County. By 2011, these marine protected areas are expected to dot the entire California coastline.