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Sharing Our Waters

Chris Mobley

Chris Mobley’s four years of overseeing the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary have been marked by some of the biggest changes in the management of the area since it was designated a sanctuary in 1980. After state officials set aside 20 percent of the sanctuary’s waters as marine protected reserves, Mobley and his small sanctuary staff had to lead the educational outreach effort to inform its visitors of the change. Thousands of brochures have been distributed to locations in the area, including nearby tackle and dive shops. “Compliance has been very high — almost perfect among commercial fishermen, because it’s their business,” he says. “Most violations have been by recreational visitors who are not yet adequately informed.”

Mobley recognizes the fishing community’s concerns with their restricted access, but he believes the closures will provide long-term rewards for all sanctuary users. Studies of other marine reserves indicate that marine life can grow to adulthood and produce the eggs and larvae needed to repopulate the waters both inside and outside of the protected areas, says Mobley. “Having abundant fish is good for the sanctuary and the fishing industry, and that’s what we expect these reserves will do,” he says.

Mobley, whose management of the sanctuary followed more than a decade of service with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has also facilitated the development of a new management plan for the sanctuary. The last plan was adopted in 1983. “Some of the new management issues, like climate changes or invasive species, weren’t even discussed and anticipated more than 20 years ago,” says Mobley.

The new plan, which will be completed in early 2007, identifies emerging environmental challenges as well as strategies to enhance public outreach to Southern California’s changing coastal demographics. Mobley also sees a need for greater integration across the multitude of state and federal agencies involved in ocean management. “Agencies are single-issued, but we need governance of the total ecosystem,” says Mobley, who anticipates that future legislation will address the problem.

Visit the Sanctuary Guide to learn more about challenges and successes of managing the underwater treasures at the Channel Islands and our country’s other National Marine Sanctuaries.