Checking In


Keeping it Blue


By Catharine Cooper .

Is it just my imagination, or are there measurably more fish in our Laguna waters than a few years ago? While there are those who would argue that the marine protected status was unnecessary, I can attest that the simple view from my SUP board is of increased bounty.

Not only herds of garibaldis, but perch, bass, and even wrasses glide through the kelp beds and over the reefs.  Our no-take zone is one small step toward a more sustainable fisheries future.

We are on the brink of fishing out the ocean.  The top predators, considered a key indicator of the seas health, are disappearing rapidly. Ninety percent of tuna, swordfish, marlin, cod, halibut and flounder are already gone.  A recent internet cartoon shows a tuna boat dragging a large empty net with a solitary Bluefin remaining.  Think about that next time you selfishly order Bluefin from your local sushi bar or pricey seafood market.

The 2010 U.N. Conference on Fish Conservation reported that unless drastic measures are taken, such as slashing fishing fleet subsidies and creating protected zones, the world “faces the nightmare of fishless oceans by 2050.”  Imagine no fish. Dead water.

The tricky thing about the ocean is that everything is interrelated. The big fish depend on the little fish, down the food chain to the reef structures. We have thinned the big species, rely more on smaller plankton feeding fish, and depend on reef systems that are increasingly damaged by trawlers dragging nets and bleaching.  A new threat, acidation, is a chemical process driven by the amount of carbon dioxide that is dissolved from the atmosphere and interferes with marine organisms’ ability to form calcium carbonate shells or skeletons.

It has become unconscionable to take the ocean and her bounty for granted.  She is on the verge of spitting back all that we have thrown her. Garbage, sewage, oil and waste pollute the very source we need for life. For so long it was thought with her unlimited expanse, she’d find a way to filter and clean up all that we have dumped. Ponder the effect of pouring a single quart of oil into an aquarium.

Laguna can take pride at our inclusion as one of the pearls of the marine reserve program. While it may challenge those who like to throw out a line on the beach, the local fish are thankful that their nursery and playground are protected.

As we approach our annual Earth Day celebration, think of more steps you can personally take to protect the ocean – the blue that blankets 71% of our earth’s surface.  Join hands with organizations that are ocean minded such as:  The Ocean Foundation, Surfrider, Laguna Ocean Foundation, or The Coastal Coalition.  Consider every one of your actions and their effect on the planet.  Do it for yourself, for your children, and for the fish.

Catharine Cooper has had a love affair with the sea since her father first dunked her at 6 months of age.  She can be reached at [email protected]

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  1. Any increase in the inshore fish population has more to do with return of the kelp forest over the past four years than the 3 month old MLPA closures.


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