Through the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative, Wishtoyo and its VCK program are advocating to best ensure a network of MPAs are established that protects the ecologically integrity and the threatened marine wildlife of the Southern California Bight (SCB). Included in the SCB, are the marine environments that extend through traditional Chumash territory and Ventura County. 

Unique to Wishtoyo’s and VCK’s advocacy is Wishtoyo’s introduction of and proposals for Chumash & Tribal Co-Management of MPAs that will enhance the effectiveness and implementation of MPA’s, while resulting in substantial cultural preservation benefits for Chumash People and other Tribal groups. As the result of Wishtoyo’s efforts, for the first time, Chumash and Tribal Co-Management of MPAs have been recommended up and down California’s South Coast in the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force’s Integrated Preferred Alternative (IPA) and in South Coast Stakeholder Proposals 1 and 3.

Wishtoyo developed the Chumash and Tribal Co-Management Proposals in close coordinated with tribal and environmental stakeholders, the California Department of Fish and Game, California State Parks, MLPAI Staff, and MLPAI stakeholders.

Click here to learn more about Wishtoyo’s Chumash & Tribal MPA Co-Management Advocacy

The Need For Ecologically Protective MPAs

The Southern California Bight (SCB) bioregion, extending from the U.S. Mexico border to Point Conception in central California, and thus along Ventura County’s coast, is rich in biodiversity mainly due to a transition zone in its oceanography that includes the mixing of warm and cool surface waters, and eight Channel Islands.  It hosts a wide diversity of species, including at least 481 species of fish, 492 species of algae, 4 species of seagrass, 4 species of sea turtles, 195 species of birds, at least 33 species of cetaceans, 7 species of pinnipeds, and over 5000 species of invertebrates. Several of these species have special status under California and/or Federal Endangered Species Act, including white abalone, tidewater goby, green sea turtles, California Brown Pelicans, California Least Terns, and Guadalupe fur seals.

Unfortunately, The Southern California Bight (SCB) bioregion, remains one of the most threatened “hot spots” for endangered biodiversity in the world. There are two primary reasons for the degradation of SCB coastal marine ecosystems.  First, the introduction of non-native species influence native species diversity. Second, the destruction of habitat, such as wetlands, oak forests, riparian areas, coastal sage scrub and marine ecosystems continues to threaten native species diversity.  Alone, coastal wetlands, once “nurseries to the sea”, have declined by 92%. 

The loss of this important habitat has led to a general decline in coastal biodiversity. Additionally, anthropogenic (human-caused) impacts such as overfishing, pollution, the persistence of legacy pollutants such as DDT, and urban development are exacerbating the ability of native species to adapt to turbulent climate and natural changes in the ecology of southern California.  In the marine environment, recent evidence from marine scientists shows that overfishing is the primary cause of the decline in kelp ecosystem health.  This is becoming a common scene throughout the world -- unsustainable use of coastal marine life continues to have dramatic impact on local maritime cultures and coastal marine ecosystems. Without the designation of large-scale MPAs within the State waters of southern California that adequately protect critical and rich marine habitats, the future of the Southern California Bight (SCB) is in jeopardy.