**This blog entry orginally appeared on the website oceanspaces.org.** This March Co-chair for the Golden Gate MPA Collaborative Paul Hobi and I attended the statewide MPA collaborative network workshop. This network of 14 groups, mostly volunteers are composed of fisheries managers, government staff, recreational ocean goers, fishers, tribes, museums, universities NGOs and citizens from Mexico to Oregon. The purpose of the Collaborative Network is to create a cooperative process that encourages participation in decision-making and communication, grounded in the values of respect for differences and the interconnection between humans and nature. The two day workshop was held at the wonderful USC Wrigley Marine Lab at Two Harbors on Catalina Island. Part of the Catalina MPA Collaborative, the lab oversees Big Fishermen Cove, one of the state’s network of 124 MPAs. Each collaborative represents a unique region and unique population with similar and also distinct challenges. In the South there is a high population density with a large recreational use including fishing. In the north, the coast is more inaccessible with a is low density and higher Tribal presence. In the middle, the Golden Gate Collaborative has remote and rugged MPAs outside a major population center in waters that are often unfriendly. The meeting, lead by Collaborative Network Chair Calla Allison was a useful sharing of strategy on our challenges and successes, and on the science of MPAs and science communication. Following long conversations, Calla lead many of us into the waters of Big Fishermen Cove snorkeling or swimming.
https://youtu.be/lDyaicrSLKICalifornia Academy of Sciences researcher and educator Rebecca Johnson (and San Mateo MPA Co-Chair) demonstrated the citizen science program on Naturalist in the tidepools. I also demonstrated the Open Explorer Trident ROV donated to Shark Stewards. We have been using the drone to monitor eelgrass habitat inside the San Francisco Bay (favorite hound shark and ray foraging habitat), and in our offshore MPAs. Waving goodbye, I was able to stay a few more days to dive the island. I learned to SCUBA over 40 years ago and am excited to dive the relatively calm and clear waters of So Cal. Decades ago abalone and lobster abounded and we used to see many blue sharks in the channel. Of course our state fish the Garibaldi abounded, but I was really happy to see abalone, many spiny lobsters and large Sheephead (Semicossyphus pulcher)- especially the resplendent tricolored snaggle-toothed males. These fish are anadromous hermaphrodites – born as females and transitioning to males after around 8 years. Sheepshead are popular among spear fishermen but are also important as predators keeping sea urchins in check, which in turn balance herbivory on macrosystis beds. These game animals all but disappeared, and to see them return within the confines of Long Point Marine Reserve is heartening. Warm waters, storms and ecosystem imbalance have drastically shifted the kelp bed density. Of the many impacts, no fishing zones is one solution helping restore populations of overfished species and add resilience to a perturbed marine ecosystem. The results I experienced show that no-take reserves are helping to restore the balance and help these species recover.