California’s divers are the “eyes and ears” under the water, providing critical insight on the status of California’s near shore marine resources. Your intimate relationship with the ocean makes you an invaluable asset for successful implementation of the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative!

First, a bit of history. In 1999, the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) was passed, requiring California to redesign its system of marine protected areas to, among other things, protect the natural diversity and abundance of marine life. As many of you may recall, there were two previous attempts to implement the MLPA, however, these attempts suffered from a lack of both adequate resources and sufficient public involvement.

To address these challenges, a public-private partnership between the California Resources Agency, California Department of Fish and Game, and Resources Legacy Fund Foundation was formed, creating the MLPA Initiative (MLPAI). The MLPAI is designed to help the State of California achieve the goals of the MLPA through a regional approach, and relies heavily on public involvement to inform the process.

The MLPAI is well underway. The central coast process was completed last September and the north central coast is under final review by the California Fish and Game Commission, the ultimate decision-making body under the MLPA. Each regional process is overseen by a blue ribbon task force (BRTF), guided by the advice of a regional stakeholder group (RSG) and science advisory team (SAT). The RSG in each region is made up of individuals representing the diverse users and interests in the study region and plays a key role in determining the eventual outcome.

We are in the initial stages of the planning process for the MLPA South Coast Study Region (Point Conception in Santa Barbara County to the border with Mexico, including all offshore islands) – an area that likely includes many of your favorite dive spots. We have received over 100 nominations for the South Coast RSG, including several prominent members of the southern California dive community. The nominees are currently being reviewed and the makeup of the South Coast RSG will be announced in September.

Given the diving community’s vast knowledge of the marine resources in this region, it is essential to include your voice in the process. There are numerous opportunities to provide input that include:
— Contact a member of the South Coast RSG to express your interests and views;
— Provide written or verbal comment at BRTF, SAT, RSG and California Fish and Game Commission meetings;
— Submit feedback on documents for comment available on the MLPA website;
— View live webcasts of meetings as they take place or archived versions of the meetings on the MLPA website;
— Submit general comments, ideas and suggestions via email or regular mail;
— Sign up for the MLPAI mailing list on the MLPA website to receive updates on key meetings, opportunities for comment and documents to review.

The first set of MLPAI meetings will be held in September and October:
    •September 8, BRTF in San Diego
    •September 15, SAT in El Segundo
    •October 6-7, RSG in El Segundo

All BRTF, SAT and RSG meetings are open to the public and are announced via the mailing list; meeting agendas and materials are posted to the MLPA website as they become available. We encourage you to visit the website and learn more about how these different groups interact and contribute to the overall planning process.

All of us on the MLPA Initiative team look forward to continued engagement with California’s diving community, our undersea “eyes and ears” in the MLPA South Coast Study Region.

For more information about the MLPA Initiative visit, email, call 916.654.1885 or write Marine Life Protection Act Initiative c/o California Resources Agency, 1416 Ninth Street, Suite 1311, Sacramento, CA 95814.