How the West was Lost part IV- Protecting the Marine Protected Areas of California

Protecting the MLPA

Protecting the Marine Protected Areas of California

by joey racano

Once upon a time, there was an ocean. Fish swam in it. Sailors could look over the side of a boat and watch bands of sunlight lose themselves in the crystal clear depths. But somewhere along the way, somebody got the idea the ocean could double as a garbage pail. Somebody decided that it was a good idea to fish, swim, surf, drill for oil and dump sewage -all in the same place!

I have always known better. That is why I got involved with cleaning the ocean. Then somebody figured a way to heal the ocean, to return it to a state of health and abundance- by creating ‘Marine Protected Areas’. The process of creating them was long and hard, because it had to go through a lot of science, and it also had to include everybody, because the sea belongs to all of us.

When I heard about the Marine Life Protection Act, the law passed by the California Legislature that says we should designate Marine Protected Areas, I was overjoyed and I knew right from the start I was going to take the point. Translation? I wasn’t going to let anybody bullsh1t anybody. I was going to do all I could to make this dream come true. MPA’s come in many shapes sizes and designations. Some are still places to fish or hunt or crab. But others are the gems of the process, called State Marine Reserves. In an SMR, no ‘take’ is allowed. Take means ‘kill’. I heard that the Morro Bay Estuary wasn’t going to get to be an SMR because hunters were afraid to lose their right to hunt. I’m not a hunter myself, but I knew I had to get that SMR for my estuary while the gettin’ was good.

So I went to see the Fish & Game Commission and suggested dialogue between the hunters and the enviros. Low and behold, I got a phone call and the rest is history. We got an SMR in the estuary, and that’s when things got pretty darned interesting. I found out that because none of this had ever been done before, no one else knew how to do it! And then, the California Men’s Colony Prison in San Luis Obispo tested me by dumping their sewage into a stream that led to my State Marine Reserve! I had never kicked a prison’s ass before, but I guess there’s a first time for everything!

(photo by S. Brazil: joey racano making the case for Marine Protected Area’s at Fish & Game Meeting)

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