How many times has a friend or family member joked, “You just go to UCSB because you want to live in paradise, right?” In many ways, they’re probably right, but do you ever question what makes UCSB paradise? Many of you might say it’s D.P. on a Friday night, or skipping class to sun bathe at Sands. But when you look around this community, there’s a lot more to it than smashed beer bottles and suntan lotion. What makes UCSB paradise is the ability to walk to three surf breaks in 10 minutes, the opportunity to scuba dive off Campus Point and the joy of kayaking on a sunny day.

So while we’re all busy enjoying our paradise on the Pacific, is anyone paying attention to what’s really going on out there? You may sit on the beach at sunset and gaze at the Channel Islands 25 miles away, but did you know a national marine sanctuary was established about 20 years ago to protect marine resources surrounding those islands? In fact, your tax dollars pay for that sanctuary – the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. Unfortunately, this money is ill-spent.

The Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary doesn’t function as a sanctuary at all. Over the past few decades, many marine species inhabiting the CINMS have declined. For example, bocaccio, a rockfish, is only about two percent of its pre-fished population level. What is the cause of these declines? Scientists have identified many potential causes of declines in marine life: water pollution, disease, natural phenomena (i.e. El Ni–o) and fishing. Humans can only regulate a few of these factors; one is fishing. Traditional fisheries’ management has failed in the CINMS. Now, we must look for new management tools.

A few years ago, a group of sport fishermen and divers proposed implementation of marine reserves in the CINMS as a management tool to reverse fishery declines. Marine reserves, which prohibit fishing, have been implemented worldwide to preserve and enhance fisheries. Marine reserves in the marine environment are what national forests are to the terrestrial (land) environment. We appreciate wilderness areas like Los Padres and Yosemite; now it’s time to create these protected areas in our oceans.

The CINMS and California Dept. of Fish and Game agreed to consider marine reserves in the CINMS. During the past two years, these agencies have been engaged in a controversial debate over marine reserves within sanctuary boundaries – they seek a consensus-based decision to establish reserves. According to the Channel Islands website, “The process is based on both extensive stakeholder input and the best available science.” In an effort to include all stakeholders, a Marine Reserves Working Group was formed to make a recommendation to the Sanctuary Advisory Council on the size and location of the proposed reserves. So far, “extensive stakeholder input” has consisted of heated arguments between a few conservationists and a few fishermen. The “best available scientific data” and the moral obligations to protect a small share of our existing resources have been largely ignored and forgotten as the MRWG meetings have turned into arguments over money and power.

The sanctuary is a public resource, and designating reserves in this area should require public input. According to Dr. Michael McGinnis, a former MRWG member, “it’s time for real public involvement.” McGinnis left his position at the MRWG a few months ago because he felt “the science was being compromised.” In a parting statement, McGinnis called for “the public to fill [his] position – not as one or a few voices, but as an informed and concerned community.”

Since making that statement over two months ago, no one has filled McGinnis’ position. On May 23 the MRWG will submit its recommendation to SAC regarding the marine reserve proposal. This will be the last chance for public involvement.

As a member of our coastal paradise, take a break from the sun bathing and the boozing, and make a positive difference in your community – support marine reserves.

Need more information?

Check out, the CINMS website.

Concert for the Coast on Sunday, May 20, 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. will feature local bands, guest speakers, information booths and more.

Public Forum on Monday, May 21, 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. in Buchanan 1920 will offer different perspectives on the marine reserves issue from a local writer, lobster trapper and CINMS staff member.

Get involved!

Go to the SAC meeting on Wednesday, May 23 at Victoria Hall, and speak your mind during the public comment period. This meeting is the last chance for public comment on the marine reserve proposal! Carpools for the meeting will leave Bagel Caf