So, after a couple of days of rest and recuperation in San Francisco, via some steep hills and good IPAs, it's time to get this fellowship going properly! Today I pick up the hire car and set off down to Monterey for a week of meetings, surveys and visits. I can't wait although am a little nervous at the same time, I wonder if other fellows have felt the same at the start of their travels?
When I was putting this together, I had a number of questions in my mind that I wanted to address with this trip. We know marine reserves work in theory (see for example this study highlighted by the Pew Marine in the last few days) but how do they work in practice?
I want to collect real world, practical and communicable experiences on highly protected marine reserves, to bring back to the UK and inform future advocacy. Ultimately it would be great to increase the amount of such sites in our waters but that's further down the line.
Right now, I want to find out how these sites work in Califiornia, Western Australia and New Zealand: how they are received, how effective they are and the practical realities beyond the academic literature.
So why California?
California is a great place to look at marine reserves. For one thing, they already have 48 (forty eight!) State Marine Reserves as part of wider network of MPAs, covering almost 9% of California's state waters. These SMRs are, according to the Californian government, areas where "while, to the extent feasible, the area shall be open to the public for managed enjoyment and study, the area shall be maintained to the extent practicable in an undisturbed and unpolluted state".
What's more, some of these sites are really well-established. The first leg of my journey will be to the waters around Point Lobos, which were initially designated as an ecological reserve in 1973! Then expanded to become a State Marine Reserve in 2009. I'll talk more about Point Lobos in the coming days but suffice to say it's a bit of a jewel in the crown.
I'll be heading to Point Lobos for the first time on Tuesday - can't wait!