Bush administration expands marine reserves off Southern California

Ending eight years of debate and study, the Bush administration yesterday announced the expansion of a network of marine reserves around Southern California’s Channel Islands. The move permanently bans recreational fishing in an area of some 150 square miles; nearly 80 percent of the area remains open to sport and commercial angling, as well as surfing, scuba, swimming, sailing, and presumably other forms of recreation not beginning with “s.” California had already established protection for 135 square miles of state-regulated ocean reserves in 2002; the new announcement expands reserves into federal waters. There’s about 35 square miles of unprotected ocean between the two protected areas, but if state commissioners close the gaps as expected this fall, the network of marine reserves will be the largest in continental-U.S. waters. Bush is on a reserve roll: last summer, he set up the world’s largest protected marine area northwest of Hawaii, which stretches a whopping 140,000 square miles.