Approval of protections for North Coast marks a big victory for birds and habitat
Fish and Game Commission made the right decision in approving compromise proposal for marine areas from Point Arena to the Oregon border.
“This is a big step in the right direction for marine birds and wildlife along the North Coast,” said Anna Weinstein, Audubon California’s seabird conservation coordinator. “This area supports more than 40 percent of California’s seabirds, and this abundance is part of what gives the North Coast its wild feel.”
In all, 13 seabird species – 250,000 total birds – rely on the North Coast area for breeding and foraging. Audubon representatives successfully argued that this abundance and diversity were natural treasures that merited protection.
“Up and down the coast, seabirds are facing tremendous challenges to survive as food sources become less reliable and critical nesting sites face more disturbances,” Weinstein added. “This situation couldn’t wait any longer for solutions, and the Commission made the right decision in taking this action today.”
The proposal that the Commission approved today was created through a collaborative process that included conservationists as well as representatives from commercial and recreational interests. Audubon California supported the proposal because it creates essential protections for a number of important seabirds, such as the Ashy storm-petrel, Marbled Murrelet, Tufted Puffin, Brandt’s cormorant, Common Murre, and Black Oystercatcher – to name a few.
Specific protections at locations such as Rockport Rocks, Cape Mendocino, South Humboldt Bay, and the Navarro River Estuary – to name a few – will protect sensitive breeding spots and important sources of food resources for seabirds.
The Marine Life Protection Act requires the state to protect and restore California’s coastal ecosystems by establishing a network of marine reserves to safeguard species and habitats while at the same time accommodating the needs of fishing and recreation. The Act divides California into five study areas, which each need to be approved by the Commission.
The North Coast study area covers the area from the Oregon border to Point Arena in Mendocino County. The proposal approved by the Fish and Game Commission assigns 13 percent of the overall study area with High to Very High protection. Additionally, the proposal will create a number of special closure zones, where no vessels may enter, to protect seabirds and marine mammals from disturbance.