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Marine Protected Areas Boom with Beachgoers, According to New Report

Orange County Coastkeeper volunteers track more than 26,000 people visiting MPAs in 2015

ORANGE COUNTY, October 25, 2016 – More Orange County locals are enjoying the beautiful marine life at the county’s seven Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), according to Orange County Coastkeeper’s annual MPA Watch Report. This newly released year-end report analyzes trends in human activity within MPAs during 2015, based on observational data collected by Coastkeeper’s volunteers. The full document is available on Coastkeeper’s website.

MPAs, designated to protect entire marine environments rather than individual species, create a safe place for marine populations to grow and thrive. Once an area is designated as an MPA, the law prohibits or limits consumptive activities such as fishing.

Coastkeeper’s 2015 MPA Watch report reveals that Coastkeeper counted 26,588 people visiting local MPAs during the 483 MPA Watch surveys completed in 2015, a 3 percent increase over 2014. Ninety-nine percent of recorded activities were non-consumptive, allowing marine life to thrive undisturbed. Eighty percent of observations were onshore recreational activities like swimming, sunbathing, running and wildlife viewing. Offshore activities like surfing, diving, snorkeling and boating comprised 19 percent of total activity.

“More people than ever are enjoying Orange County’s Marine Protected Areas,” says Ray Hiemstra, associate director of programs for Orange County Coastkeeper. “It’s an encouraging trend because MPAs protect vulnerable ecosystems and provide beautiful destinations for our communities to enjoy.”

Ongoing research by Coastkeeper volunteers ensures these areas serve their purpose in protecting wildlife. It also allows Coastkeeper to assist regulatory and enforcement agencies in minimizing the human footprint at MPAs. Active protection of MPAs contributes to the management of sustainable fisheries by restricting overfishing, a constant threat to our fish populations.

Residents are invited to protect their local marine environments by joining Coastkeeper’s MPA Watch program. Trained volunteer teams produce accurate and reliable information to provide a better understanding of how individuals use coastal MPAs. Through classroom and field trainings, volunteers learn about MPA science, local marine resources, MPA locations, allowed uses, identification of common human-use activities and existing MPA monitoring efforts.

To learn more about Orange County’s MPAs, visit To view a full list of Orange County’s Marine Protected Areas, click here. To get involved with the MPA Watch program please visit


ORANGE COUNTY COASTKEEPER: Founded in 1999, the mission of Coastkeeper is to protect and promote sustainable water resources that are swimmable, drinkable, and fishable. Coastkeeper is a nonprofit clean water organization that serves as a proactive steward of our fresh- and saltwater ecosystems. We work collaboratively with diverse groups in the public and private sectors to achieve healthy, accessible, and sustainable water resources for the region. We implement innovative, effective programs in education, advocacy, restoration, research, enforcement, and conservation. For more information, visit or call 714-850-1965.