Merry Christmas!

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I have a friend whose family heads down to the beach every Christmas morning for a communal surf session. Sometimes all they do is sit there on their boards, hanging out in the brisk but bright December sun, but other times there is actual surf to enjoy and they spend hours riding the waves. I think it is so cool that a family can have such a long-standing tradition based solely upon enjoying each other and the Pacific. That is one of the main reasons I love living in Los Angeles - our beaches aren't pristine, our waters chilly at best, but the people who live here LOVE this ocean.

And following that thought, GREAT news - California just completed its Marine Reserve Network, after 12 years of hard work determining where to set up protected areas and how to manage them (article can be found here)! 848 square miles of protected water, stretching from the Oregon state line to the Mexican border. That's 16% of California's coastline protected! There were a TON of heated debates about these reserves - many people had conflicting ideas about how best to protect coastal waters and how to manage them (main group of people opposing the reserves were recreational and commercial fisherman, because many of the best and most productive waters are now complete no-take zones) but I like to believe that all of the fire in those debates comes from a common ground of loving the sea. There's no doubt that putting key areas (rocky reefs, nurseries, etc) aside, either as limited use areas or no-take zones, will help to maintain the health of our state's fisheries and marine wildlife, and I think everyone agrees that we want these ecosystems to be around in 50 years. Maybe my next post will be about the exact benefits of marine reserves, since that's what so much of my work focuses on and it's important to know how this network will protect and preserve marine ecosystems.

It is interesting to note that one of the main arguments dissenting fisherman raised were against the incredible size of the reserve network, as it would not only prevent them from fishing in the best areas, but would also cram them all together in the areas they CAN fish. It's not like the number of fisherman will be decreasing alongside this network's implementation. There are a lot of technicalities to recreational fishing that I'm not super well-versed in - permits, zoning, fluctuating market demand of certain fish and seasonality issues - but the general idea of a shrinking space for the fisherman to utilize does seem to be a problem to me. Will that make the areas that are open to fishing more barren, more overfished? Will this raise the (already high) prices of locally-caught, sustainable California fish? Will this cause even more tension between environmentalists and fisherman, something that I think only hinders the process of finding effective solutions?

Buttttt, despite these issues, I'm going to go ahead and shout a great big WOOHOO! to my great state of California. Budget cuts, angry fisherman, and the fact that we have a ridiculously large amount coastline to manage didn't get in the way of reaching this goal. It's not perfect, it's in no way an end to our fight to protect our oceans, but it's a huge step and will help ensure that there are still fish for our children to catch! Very very happy camper over here.

......also, on a completely unrelated note, has anyone else noticed that people seem to be MUCH more happy, friendly, and cooperative this holiday season? Haha, I've been braving the crowds to finish up all my Christmas shopping and have been so pleasantly surprised - a random elderly man helped me decide between three sparkling wines I was buying for my mom, I've been striking up conversations with strangers right and left, and the other day the entire first floor of this little coffee shop I sometimes do work at had a group conversation about the pros and cons of online shopping. Hah! Oh, and the other day a man stopped me while walking across the street to tell me I had ink on my face! (I fervently wish there were more people willing to do this haha, one time in undergrad I walked around campus with methyl red stains on my forehead and cheek from doing gram staining in microbiology and no one told me all day!!! I finally looked in a mirror around 8pm and absolutely died laughing/cringing)

I hope you all have a lovely holiday season, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!