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California’s MPAs Are Under Review

By March 8, 2023March 13th, 2023Blog

In 1999, California overhauled the state’s Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) by passing the Marine Life Protection Act. This law required the creation of a statewide network of Marine Protected Areas that would provide full ecosystem protection and be adaptively managed to provide resilient marine resources for future Californians. This coastal network is interconnected, much like national and state park systems.

After years of work and input from thousands of people, including Coastkeeper, the Statewide MPA Network went into effect in 2012.

About Our MPAs

The California MPA Network includes MPAs with different levels of protection; some MPAs prohibit the disturbance of any marine resource, while others allow the take of particular species.

Scientific studies show that given enough time, MPAs can increase the size, abundance, and diversity of marine species within and outside their borders. Those benefits are important to wider marine ecosystems and to the fishing communities who depend on them.

Unfortunately, some fishing groups believe MPAs have restricted too much of the coast. These opponents fought during the creation of the network and are expected to draw attention at the upcoming ten-year review.

In total, California has 124 MPAs. Orange County is home to 7 MPAs that cover approximately 12 miles of coastline. Learn more about them here.

Ten Years Later

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) set a ten-year timeframe for the formal review of the effectiveness of this new network. Now, in 2023, the state is facing its first “Marine Protected Area Network Decadal Management Review.”

CDFW published its 2022 report in January and presented it to California’s Fish and Game Commission (FGC), the primary decision-making authority for California’s MPA regulations.

You can see the report and associated information here.

Seeking Public Input

With the report published, these agencies have begun collecting public comments on Marine Protected Area management, starting with an informational forum on March 15 in Monterey. The forum is also available to stream online.

FGC’s Marine Resources Committee will meet the following day, March 16, also in Monterey and online, to discuss the review and accept public comment. This will be the first of several MPA review meetings held this year.

Ray Hiemstra, Coastkeeper’s associate director of programs, will attend both events in person to provide expertise and propose ideas for the next ten years of MPA management.

We urge you to advocate for our coast by letting these agencies know your thoughts on Marine Protected Areas! Due to conflicting opinions on the MPA network, this year will undoubtedly be very contentious amongst the fishing and coastal advocate communities.

Coastkeeper and MPAs

Coastkeeper played an active role in forming and researching Marine Protected Areas for over 15 years. Since the implementation of the network in 2012, Coastkeeper has been the official Orange County partner for MPA Watch, a statewide community science project analyzing human use data in and around Marine Protected Areas. See the recently released 2022 MPA Watch Annual Report here.