MPAs: An Ocean Legacy Like a String of Pearls

California marine protected area ocean MLPA coast network Department of Fish and

It’s been a long road – more than 12 years – but, California’s statewide network of coastal marine protected areas (MPAs) is now complete. As of Dec. 19, 2012, the final piece of the coastal MPA network (along the North Coast) is effective.

Our state’s marine life will now have safe haven along about 16% of our entire California coastline, lining our 1,100 miles of coast like a string of pearls, protecting habitats, ocean ecosystems, and marine natural heritage.

California’s state legislature enacted the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) in 1999, directing the Department of Fish and Game to design and manage a statewide network of MPAs to protect marine life and habitats, marine ecosystems, and marine natural heritage. Heal the Bay was most actively involved in the effort to designate MPAs in southern California under the MLPA, and is now working with partner groups throughout the state to monitor and conduct outreach about these new underwater parks.

Through the phased “MLPA Initiative” process various interests ranging from fishing groups to conservationists designed 119 MPAs, which have been adopted off the CA coast- first in the Central Coast in 2007 and 2010, then along the Southern California coast, which entered into regulatory effect on Jan. 1, 2012.

This network of MPAs is designed to function together as an interconnected system.  California’s MPAs are being monitored by state and federal agencies, researchers, citizen science groups, and others.

The North Coast MPAs going into effect marks a historic moment to be celebrated – this is the first statewide network of underwater parks in the U.S. As an investment for future generations, this system of MPAs will lead to a stronger and more resilient marine ecosystem in California.

-- Dana Roeber Murray

Heal the Bay’s Marine & Coastal Scientist 

Want to do more to steward our ocean environment? Join Heal the Bay’s citizen science program, MPA Watch. Training begins January 30.