Marine Protection Area committee forming in La Jolla

By Ashley Mackin

With the establishment of new Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) across Southern California, a new collective is also being formed in La Jolla for which community input and volunteers are needed. Tasks for members of the MPA Implementation Collaborative will include advising the non-profit organization, Wildcoast, as well as the Department of Fish and Wildlife (formerly Fish and Game) of the community’s needs while protecting the MPAs.

Implementation projects required to meet these goals include deciding on sufficient signage to show MPA boundaries, collecting data on how the areas are used by humans, monitoring compliance and being part of the decision-making process at meetings.

MPAs are mandated by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and defined as “areas off the coast of California dedicated to the protection of marine habitat and wildlife.”

In the MPAs found in La Jolla — one off the coast from Emerald Street to Palomar Avenue, and another near the Cove — fishing or the removal of any marine life is prohibited. Ben McCue, Coastal and Marine Conservation Director for Wildcoast, said in areas like this, signage is important, especially for those who fish. A concern for them is accidentally wandering into a MPA and unknowingly breaking the law.

“How do you communicate to people that there are these new areas, which if they fish there, are going to cost them a fine?” he asked. Currently, brochures are left to be used as guides to the new MPAs at locations where fishing licenses are sold. However, McCue argued that there needs to be more done, as the new boundary lines are not obvious.

One of the hurdles is that La Jolla faces south and west, while the MPA lines across the state run east and west. “So you could be at WindanSea ... go out on your kayak and go fishing or spearfishing, be outside of the MPA reserve lines, but then at some point, you are going to hit the reserve ... so how do we communicate to people where that line is?” McCue asked.

Additionally, data regarding how humans use these areas also needs to be recorded to help direct future decisions about “ecosystem management.” McCue said he has met with spear-fishing groups, and looks forward to meeting with commercial fishing groups, the council of divers, and the La Jolla Shores Association.

“If La Jolla groups know key areas or people to contact for education and outreach, we’re happy to take those and work with whoever we need to work with,” he said.

McCue has already met with La Jolla Parks and Beaches, where trustee Debbie Beacham said, “(We’re hoping to) come to a much more transparent way for this community to be involved, rather than just a thought passing, we want to have a very detailed discussion as to what exactly we are hoping to do with our signage, etc.”

An additional part of the plan is to recruit volunteers to help with monitoring and compliance, because the Department of Fish and Wildlife is “going a lot more toward compliance than just simply enforcement in the belief that most people who were violating (the boundary lines), simply don’t know or don’t have the right information, and if they had that information they wouldn’t be violating,” McCue said.

Members of the collective will also be the major influence in the decision-making process. McCue said he wants those who are already involved in local community planning groups to be members, although anyone can attend the meetings. To contribute without being a member, he suggests contacting the groups that represent personal interests, and offer feedback for them to take to collective meetings.

To get involved

■ Those interested in attending the meetings or receiving progress updates may e-mail Ben McCue at