UCSB students hold news conference in advance of going to Sacramento
Several enthusiastic UCSB students stood Wednesday morning in front of the Campus Lagoon and called for action to make 30% of California’s ocean waters Marine Protected Areas by 2030.
The students, who are with the UCSB chapter of California Students Public Interest Research Group, were holding a news conference, complete with signs such as “Protect Our Oceans.” The small audience consisted of UCSB students, a UCSB alumnus and one professional media outlet, the News-Press.
The students will repeat their emphasis on marine conservation when they head to Sacramento this weekend and join CALPIRG students from UC campuses throughout the state. An estimated 60 students are expected to show up, including eight or so from UCSB.
On Monday, the students from UCSB and other UC campuses will gather on the state Capitol lawn to rally in support of adding MPAs, and they will meet with members of the higher education committees of the Assembly and Senate, CALPIRG Students campus organizer Ori Liwanag told the News-Press Wednesday evening.
CALPirg also plans for students to meet with a representative of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office.
Currently 9% of the ocean along the California coast consists of Marine Protected Areas, which UCSB student Kristi Copeland, who hosted Wednesday’s news conference, compared to “national parks but in the water.”
Although California is a leader in Marine Protected Areas, there’s more that Californians can do, and it’s critical to do it quickly because of climate change, Miss Copeland, 20, told her audience before other speakers talked. After the news conference, some students composed handwritten letters that will be taken to Sacramento.
While the letters were written, Ms. Copeland — whose majors include physical geology with an ocean science emphasis — told the News-Press that the most recent review by California Fish and Wildlife shows the biomass of fish in Marine Protected Areas has grown significantly.
MPAs are designed to offer protection for marine life and habitat and can limit human activities to various degrees. According to the California Fish and Wildlife website (wildlife.ca.gov), the three main types of MPAs are State Marine Reserves, State Marine Park and State Marine Conservation area.
According to Fish and Wildlife, fishing, kelping and other extractive activities aren’t allowed in SMRs with the exception of scientific collecting with a permit. “SMPs don’t allow any commercial extraction, and SMCAs restrict some types of commercial and/or recreational extraction.”
Unless there are specific prohibitions, swimming, wading, boating, diving and surfing are allowed in MPAs, according to Fish and Wildlife.
At Wednesday’s news conference in front of the UCSB lagoon, Miss Copeland pointed out the nearby Campus Point Marine Protected Area and Coal Oil Point Reserve, which is part of the UCSB Natural Reserve system.
As the wind blew powerfully over the lagoon and sprinkles of sunlight danced on the water on a partly cloudy day, other speakers expressed their passion for marine conservation.
Jake Twomey, a freshman majoring in economics, noted that the massive 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara inspired the creation of Earth Day.
“Everyone needs to take care of the planet, not passively but actively,” Mr. Twomey, 18, told the small audience. He noted that since the 1969 oil spill, “the problem has escalated beyond oil spills and pollution….
““The U.N. said that we need to conserve 30% of our oceans by 2030 or ecosystems will collapse …,” Mr. Twomey said, referring to research by scientists working with the United Nations.
“This is what we’re fighting for, a future so the next generation can experience the delicate beauty that our Earth provides us,” he said.
Another speaker, Leona Gomez, told the audience she’s looking forward to going to Sacramento to support the expansion of Marine Protected Areas.
“As college students, we are told over and over again how we need to do our part and recycle the compost and try to waste as little as possible,” Miss Gomez, 22, a senior majoring in communications, said. “While it is crucial that we continue to do our part and treat the environment with care, our individual efforts mean nothing if we don’t have the support of our government officials trying to make the world a better place for generations to come.”
She noted that conservation benefits everyone, including the fishing industry.
Logan Bernhoit, a junior majoring in economics, expressed his appreciation for the Pacific Ocean as a scuba diver.
“One of my greatest memories was scuba diving at night and seeing the giant manta rays at night in Hawaii, doing flips in the ocean,” Mr. Bernhoit, 20, told the small audience. “It took my breath away.”
He said he wants future generations to have similar memories.