Marine Protected Areas


The postcard beauty of California’s coastline is as much a part of the state’s identity as Hollywood and sunshine, the Golden Gate bridge and the giant redwood trees. The seastacks, tidepools, reefs and kelp forests that make up much of the stunning view also serve as homes to fish, marine mammals, seabirds and other wildlife locals and tourists alike have grown to love.

It was this love and appreciation of the ocean and what it provides that motivated a bipartisan California legislature to pass an ambitious and visionary law known as the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) in 1999. Based in science that builds on land conservation success, where informed and proactive planning has served to save important habitat areas, the MLPA called for well-designed marine protected areas to preserve fish breeding grounds and habitats necessary for wildlife to thrive.

Conservationists, fishermen, scientists, educators, scuba divers, bird enthusiasts and tribal representatives all worked together to plan marine protected areas based on scientific principles and local knowledge. In 2012, California became the first state in the nation to adopt a network of science-based Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) – designed by the coastal stakeholders themselves – along its coast.

These marine protected areas safeguard underwater habitats and allows the sea life inhabiting these special places a greater chance to thrive. Species that have declined in size and number now have a chance to recover. The MPA network is a major investment in the future of both California’s ocean wildlife and the state’s coastal, tourism-based economy.

MPAs also provide additional education, research and recreational opportunities for educators, scientists and the public at large.

Partners include federal and state agencies, engaging the National Park Service, the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Coast Guard; California State Parks; the University of California; private academic institutions; and dozens of non-profit organizations who assist with enforcement, monitoring, funding and outreach.

Around the world, studies continually show that MPAs result in larger, more prolific fish with stronger offspring and greater biodiversity overall within protected areas.

A major economic force in California, coastal tourism and recreation provide three-quarters of the jobs in the ocean economy and over $40 billion in revenue yearly. Here’s Everything (else) you always wanted to know about marine protected areas.

The NEC has a long history promoting and providing education on MPA’s. Previous Coastal Programs Director Jennifer Savage served on the North Coast’s regional stakeholder group, helping to craft a unified vision for the area’s 20 new or modified areas (19 MPAs and one marine recreational management area), covering approximately 137 square miles or about 13 percent of the range between the Oregon border and Alder Creek. The NEC’s previous MPA Outreach Coordinator, Delia Bense-Kang, coordinated years of MPA outreach through her Your Week in Ocean Column, Coastal Currents, regular coastal Bioblitz’, her segment of the EcoNews Report, and presentations. Today, the NEC continues to educate on MPA’s and other coastal issues through Ocean Night and advocacy.

More Info

California Dept. of Fish & Wildlife links:

Marine Life Protection Act

Northern California Marine Protected Areas

Map of Northern California MPAs

North Coast Regional Stakeholder Group

North Coast MPA News:

Humboldt Teems with Recreationally Friendly MPAs

California Creates Globally Significant Network of Marine Protected Areas

United Front

An Aerial Tour of Your Marine Protected Areas and More

Tidepooling in MPAs

MARE Splashes into Ocean Night

North Coast Marine Protected Areas Adopted

Marine Protected Areas Go Live Next Week

North Coast “Underwater Parks” In Effect Today

Happy Birthday North Coast Marine Protected Areas

Marine Protected Areas One Year In

Little Fish Big WinnersCreating a Marine Reserve Snapshot

Kayaking in Humboldt Bay’s Marine Protected Area

North Coast Projects:

Ocean Spaces – North Coast

Marine Protected Area Monitoring Launches in North Coast

Statewide Highlights:

9 Great California Coastal Birding Sites

Top 10 Dive Spots in California’s “Underwater Parks”