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I have been Co-Chair for the Pacific Grove-based grass roots group The Tidepools Coalition since 1998 and am also a steering group member for the Ricketts Marine Reserve in Monterey (not a reserve yet, but we're working towards that goal).

As a long time diver in this area I have seen some alarming things out in our kelp forests, and my "baseline" is only some 30 years or so, but I can remember even in the early 90's seeing vibrant schools of rockfish out off the southern shore of Monterey Bay in the giant kelp forests, at Chase Reef, for example, but today, it is very hard to find a mature rockfish out there -- all this noticeable in 10 years -- and, depressingly, it was 10 years ago when the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary was formed. In contrast, you can go over to nearby Point Lobos State Reserve and see healthy schools of rockfish -- and other fish species are there in greater abundance as well -- a very powerful example of how marine reserves really do work. Diving in Pt. Lobos Reserve is like diving in a markedly different kelp forest ecosystem -you just seem to see more of everything out there.

We had hoped for better results from the Sanctuary, but it unfortunately is misnamed -- it really isn't a Sanctuary in the traditional sense of the word-- formed under the Department of Commerce (not the Dept. of Interior like our National Parks) it has to wear a "commerce" hat more often than a "conservation" hat, in my opinion. That's where grassroots work is very important off the Central California Coast (and our entire 1,100 mile coast for that matter) -- but Randy's excellent article struck a chord for me as this is exactly what we've been trying to convey to folks up here (and I believe we are gaining support) -- this past year, two of our people, Jim Willoughby (the Tidepools Coalition Chair) and Susan Goldbeck (the Coalition's pro-bono legal counsel) were nominated to the State's Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) advisory panel for this region -- they, with other local stakeholders, will be helping to determine where and how to implement a system of new marine reserves off our Central California Coast, and we are as hopeful as ever that at least two of these reserves will be nominated for the southern coast of Monterey Bay. Susan was also elected to the Pacific Grove City Council last November and we now have a conservation- friendly new mayor here as well (our former mayor was non-supportive of our efforts, to say the least) which will make a tremendous difference in the outcome for us.

As crazy as this sounds, early on in our efforts to help restore the tidelands at Pt. Pinos, our biggest force of opposition was the Montery Bay Aquarium which has for many years used the area as a stockhouse to supply its numerous tanks for display purposes and as food for display animals; it has also in the past harvested for trade and barter to other Aquariums, and our old mayor was not about to do anything the Aquarium didn't want -- but all that has changed now, and in fairness to the Aquarium, they have agreed to not collect out at Pt. Pinos for the interim, and we hope they will actually be supportive of a no-take reserve out there in the future.

We have had three meetings with the MBA in recent months to see how we can work together and come to terms -- we're not out of the woods yet, but I am encouraged at this point. Wish us luck! It is amazing (as Randy in similar fashion has pointed out in his article) how people can go out off Pt. Pinos and look with awe at the marvelous seascape there (and it is still breathtaking), but you have to tell them -- "Hey, (as my neighbor who is about 70 now and grew up here says) you should have seen this place when I was a kid!" Certainly we can attribute some changes to global climate fluctuations, but we can also attribute a great deal of the detrimental effects to human activities/impacts. -

Chuck Davis, Monterey, California