Marine Protected Areas
What is the Marine Life Protection Act?
The Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) was signed in 1999 and directs the state to reexamine and redesign California’s system of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). The MLPA is a visionary state law that brings together scientists, fishermen, conservationists, business owners, residents, and Fish & Game officials to create a long-term plan to restore and protect California’s most unique and threatened marine environments.
What are MPAs? MPAs are discrete geographic marine or estuarine areas designed to protect or conserve marine life and habitat (Defined in Public Resources Code, Sections 36602 and 36710). Just as parks on land protect special lands and wildlife from overdevelopment, MPAs preserve California’s stunning marine ecosystems for future generations to observe and enjoy.
Why is this necessary? The MLPA process addresses the need to create a more cohesive MPA system to ensure more effective protection of California’s marine life, habitats, and ecosystems. Scientific studies have shown that marine protected areas help restore depleted fish and wildlife populations. In fully protected reserves, scientists have observed many benefits including higher abundance, larger and more fertile individuals, and more resilient marine populations.
A Sheltered Sea – Southern Passage is a great short film that further explains the pressing issues our oceans face and how marine protected areas work to tackle some of those problems.
Here’s a list of MPA designations:
- State Marine Reserve (SMR): fully protects fish, wildlife, and habitat from all extractive activities.
- State Marine Park (SMP): allows for some recreational fishing.
- State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA): allows for some consumptive recreational and commercial activities.
History of Development and Support
A regional approach was used in the MLPA Initiative process, in which California’s 1,100-mile coastline was divided into five study regions. In September of 2007, regulations for the first study region were implemented along the Central Coast (Pigeon Point in San Mateo County to Point Conception in Santa Barbara County). On August 5, 2009, the Fish and Game Commission voted to adopt its preferred alternative proposal, also known as the Integrated Preferred Alternative (IPA), for the MLPA North Central Coast study region (Alder Creek to Pigeon Point).
The MLPA proposal for the South Coast study region (Pt. Conception to the CA/Mexico border, including offshore islands) was approved by the Fish & Game Commisison in Decemeber 2010, and went into effect Summer 2011. The North Coast (Alder Creek north to the California border with Oregon) began its planning process, followed by the San Francisco Bay process (from the Golden Gate Bridge northeast to the Carquinez Bridge).
- “Study: Fisheries collapse seen along the coast,” OC Register, Sept 26, 2011
- Find the study here: “The illusion of plenty: hyperstability masks collapses in two recreational fisheries that target fish spawning aggregations”
- Recent Letter to the Editor by Wyland: “Protect our ocean’s health,” OC Register, Jan 2, 2011
- Science Magazine Article: Science Meets Politics Off California’s Coast, March 2010
- Crystal Cove Ocean Park White Paper- Coastkeeper Preliminary Developments for South Coast MPAs
MPAs Approval for South Coast Region
On December 15, 2010, after hours of public comment and 2 years of meetings, the Fish and Game Commission voted to approve a system of Marine Protected Areas for the South Coast Region. The final array of MPAs is a compromise solution that Coastkeeper is proud to have participated in reaching.
- South Coast Region MPAs, Final Map - Department of Fish & Game (DFG)
- Decision Scorecard, DFG - Commission’s December 15th, 2010 votes on specific options
- MPA Cluster Map: OC - Coastkeeper’s breakdown of the Orange County cluster that includes Reserves and Conservation Areas in Newport Beach, Laguna Beach and Dana Point
- “California Fish and Game Commission Gives Final Approval for South Coast Marine Protected Areas,” - DFG News Release, 12-16-2010
- “State adopts network of protected marine areas” - LA Times, 12-16-2010
- “Vast protected area approved off Southern CA coast” - Associated Press, 12-16-2010
- Department of Fish and Game MLPA Science Studies
- Fishful Thinking: Rhetoric, Reality, and the Sea Before Us
- Ecology and Society
MLPA in the News
- “Volunteers to help patrol new marine sanctuaries” – LA Times, 12-31-2011
- “New Ocean Protections Come Ashore”-Laguna Beach Independent, 12-30-2011
- “Community Commentary: Local water getting protection they need”-Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot, 12-29-2011
- “Culture Karma” Laguna Beach Independent, 12-28-2011
- “South Coast Marine Protection Plan Formulation Is A Drawn-Out Process- Final Decision Is Not Expected Now until the Fall of 2010″ – Malibu Surfside News, 12-17-09
- “Offshore MLPA fishing plan moves forward at meeting” – Torrance Daily Breeze, 12
- “Panel backs no-fishing zones off Southern California coast” – LA Times, 11/11/09
- “State panel recommends Laguna fishing closure” – OC Register, 11/10/09
- “Fishing Interests Vow to Fight No-Take Marine Reserve”- Laguna Beach Independent, 11/13/09
- “Battle at Sea” - Torrance Daily Breeze, 10-17-09
- “No-fishing zone off Laguna: activists say protection is needed” - OC Register article & video, 9-11-09
- “State Fish and Game approves ocean preserves”- North Central Coast Region, The Sacramento Bee, 8/6/09
- “Rebuilding Global Fisheries” - Science, 7/31/09
- ” Recreation Allowed in Reserves” – Laguna Beach Independent, 7/10/09
- “Leaders Endorse Citywide Fishing Ban”- Laguna Beach Independent, 6/19/09
- “Protecting California’s marine ecosystems”- LA Times, 3/31/09