California springs forward on ocean protection

  • Published on March 9th, 2012

By Kaitilin Gaffney
Pacific Program Director, Ocean Conservancy

This Sunday, we set our clocks forward for Daylight Saving Time. After a mild winter, spring is definitely already in the air in California, with fruit trees in bloom and cold March winds blowing. The coming time and season changes remind me how quickly time flies, especially when you are working on conservation gains.

In environmental advocacy, progress is often measured not in hours, or seasons, but in years or even decades. Thankfully, California is now celebrating two major victories for ocean protection that have been long in the making: a new set of ocean parks along our shores and a statewide ban on ocean dumping.

Spring is my favorite time of year to visit Yosemite National Park and enjoy the spectacle of the waterfalls and the beauty of the wildflowers. When gazing in wonder at Half Dome, it seems obvious that such a special place deserves safeguarding – but winning federal protection for Yosemite Valley took 16 years of relentless advocacy. It’s a good reminder for those of us working on ocean conservation.

The recent warm weather has locals and visitors enjoying California beaches and even getting out on the water. Now is the time to check out the migrating gray whales at Point Reyes or along the Big Sur Coast, dive Point Lobos or Catalina Island, or go for a paddle in Elkhorn Slough or La Jolla Cove. As you enjoy these spectacular and iconic California coastal treasures, know that each of them (and many others) is newly protected – under California’s visionary Marine Life Protection Act. By 2013, this law, passed back in 1999, will result in the nation’s first statewide system of ocean parks. A success that was 14 years in the making.crashing waves

Planning a weekend drive along the coast? Pull over at any of the countless scenic spots along the way and appreciate the new “no discharge zone” that stretches from the Oregon border to Mexico. California passed a law banning large ships from dumping sewage off our shores back in 2005, but the regulations just went into effect a few weeks ago – seven years later.

Successful efforts to conserve our land and ocean treasures are not easy. They take time, commitment, patience and perseverance. But the payoff is worth it: protected wildlife and habitats; beautiful places to visit with our families and friends; natural playgrounds to use and enjoy. And the rewards last forever.

Ms. Gaffney is Ocean Conservancy’s Pacific Program Director and works out of their office in Santa Cruz, California. Over the past decade, Ocean Conservancy, working with many partners, has led efforts to establish California’s no-discharge zone and implementation of the Marine Life Protection Act.

(Image by erik_kolsted via flickr)

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