| ||The MLPA Debate and a Garibaldi in a Kelp Forest|
Given all the continued contentious debate over establishing MLPA reserves in California, heres my completely unscientific but firsthand observation. Ive been diving in California since the late seventies. Lets take three slow growing fish species found in the coastal kelp forest environment, the Garibaldi, the Sheephead and the Kelp Bass. The Garibaldi has been completely protected for basically as long as Ive been diving. Its interesting to note its politically been a very safe position to take in affording them protected status. Garibaldi are of course the state fish of California and it doesnt hurt that they rarely bite a fishermans hook, are not good to eat and have zero commercial value. The Sheephead and Kelp Bass on the other hand are targeted by sport fisherman, are considered good eating and have been afforded minimal protection by California Fish and Game regulations. Given my experience going back over 25 years, which two of the three species would you guess I have seen decline, both in terms of size and numbers over this time? Surprise its the Sheephead and Kelp Bass. From my own experience I would say their numbers and average size have dropped dramatically! The male Sheephead is a perfect example, it used to be you would often spot them off in the distance and would do a double take at their size. They can range to well over 4 feet in length. Mature males of this size are now all but non-existent from my experience. I enjoy sportfishing myself, but Im convinced that much as our National Parks have protected at least some of our most valuable natural places on land we must set aside areas along our coasts or the long slow decline of the California marine environment will continue and not leave much if anything for future generations. For detailed information on the current MLPA proposals see the California Department of Fish and Game website.
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California Garibaldi in Kelp Forest
species: Hypsypops rubicundus
picture-id: FGA-025 request pricing
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