In October 2002, after four years of negotiations and a powerful show of support from BioGems Defenders (who sent more than 30,000 messages), the California Fish and Game Commission voted to establish a series of marine reserves designed to protect the spectacular underwater ecosystem surrounding the Channel Islands.
Beginning in 2003, fishing will be prohibited in the 12 reserves, which will cover 175 square miles, or about 19 percent of the state waters around the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. The sanctuary's waters have been off-limits to oil and gas drilling for more than two decades, but overfishing continued to deplete underwater populations. The fishing ban will allow once-abundant species -- including white abalone, Pacific red snapper and angel sharks -- to rebound.
In the coming months and years we will work to expand the reserves into the area's federal waters, and to use this victory as a springboard to creating additional reserves along the California coast and in other critical coastal habitat areas.