Some FFMR volunteers have recently been trained to monitor and report activity within the Montara State Marine Reserve of which FMR is a part. (See page 11 of our December 2011 newsletter for more about our local monitors.) They and other citizens all along the California coast have signed up to help protect the Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) that have been established over the past few years. Observing through binoculars, the monitors will track and report activities such as fishing, setting crab pots, and other illegal harvesting.
Enforcing the no-take law falls to the extremely understaffed California Department of Fish and Game. The department has just one large vessel plying the waters along the Central and Northern California coast, and fewer wardens per capita than any other coastal state. Poachers take advantage of wardens being spread so thin; recently crab traps were set within the boundaries of Montara State Marine Reserve. The low fines meted out by judges for poaching, set against the current price of crab, makes the gamble worth taking for some fishermen. Read more about the challenge of protecting MPAs in this San Jose Mercury News article.