On March 29-30, 2011, the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) convened a Marine Protected Areas and Fisheries Integration Workshop, attended by 22 fishery scientists, ecologists, fishery modelers, and resource managers. The purpose was to elicit input from the participants on these topics:
- the utility and practicality of using a redesigned statewide network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) to inform fisheries management,
- potential effects of the MPA network on California's marine fisheries, and
- how best to monitor for these effects and incorporate them into ecosystem management.
The MPA network was redesigned to increase coherence and effectiveness in protecting and conserving California's marine life, habitats, and ecosystems, as required by the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) of 1999. The MPA network design also complies with the Marine Life Management Act of 1998, which prompted a shift in focus from management of single species or groups of species to ecosystems.
The MPAs are expected to result in various biological, ecological, and socioeconomic effects within and adjacent to their boundaries, leading to broad implications for the management of California's marine fisheries. Many consumptive users also have raised concerns about expected effects and the desire to manage fisheries adaptively in response to the MPA network. Therefore, research must be designed to provide information critical for management decisions to optimally balance ecosystems and their impacts.
In a recently completed statewide MPA network planning and development process called the MLPA Initiative, the CDFW served as the lead agency and is now focusing on implementation and monitoring activities. The Marine Protected Areas and Fishery Integration Workshop was an important first step in focusing these activities.