Environment -

State agency acts to protect additional waters off California's coast


          In July, 2008, a public planning process, which comprised 50 days of meetings with a regional stakeholder group, a science advisory team, and a blue ribbon task force appointed by the Secretary of California Natural Resources Agency, began in order to create 36 new Marine Protected Areas, or MPAs. The process addressed 187 square miles of state waters off the coast of Southern California, and, as of December 15, 2010 the California Department of Fish and Game Commission gave its final approval to implement the MPAs under the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA).

But what exactly is a Marine Protected Area? In this case, 82.5 square miles have been designated as no-take state marine reserves, which are designed to accomplish one or more of four goals:

1. protect or restore rare, threatened or endangered native plants, animals or habitats in marine areas;
2. protect or restore outstanding, representative or imperiled marine species, communities, habitats and ecosystems;
3. protect or restore diverse marine gene pools; or
4. contribute to the understanding and management of marine resources and ecosystems by providing the opportunity for scientific research in outstanding, representative or imperiled marine habitats or ecosystems.

In addition, 33.5 square miles have been designated as no-take state marine conservation areas, which exist for the four goals above, in addition to two more:

1. preserve outstanding or unique geological features; or
2. provide for sustainable living marine resource harvest.

The remaining 71 square miles have been designated as state marine conservation areas with different take allowances and varying levels of protection.

For a map of the newly designated area, visit:

The recently approved regulations are expected to be in effect mid-2011, and the new MPAs will join currently designated areas in the central and north coast region to make nearly 875 square miles of protected areas.

According to Steven Gaines, Dean of the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management at the University of California, Santa Barbara, “There is plenty of new evidence to show that if reserves are designed well, they can benefit both fish and fishermen.” 

UC Santa Barbara’s Andrew Rassweiler said in Science News that a new Southern California marine reserve network could boost fishing-industry profits: “People fishing can make more money with smaller impacts on the species being fished.”

Check back for more coverage on the Marine Life Protection Act.