In September 2007, the California Fish and Game Commission implemented the first significant network of protected areas (MPAs) on the coast of the continental U.S. This monumental achievement is the result of more than seven years of work since the passage of the Marine Life Protection Act in 1999.
The network places a total of 18% of state ocean waters off California's central coast in some type of protected area. Of the overall area of more than 1100 square miles, 8% is in fully protected marine reserves (up from 1%), 10% will allow limited fishing and the remaining coast will be left open.
Here are a few of the special places included in the new Central Coast MPAs:
If you haven't taken a trip to the bluffs and beaches of Ano Nuevo, you're missing one of the great wildlife walks in California. Each spring, huge male elephant seals challenge each other for mates, bellowing and bumping their chests on the beach below. Hundreds of seabirds live on the offshore rocks and islands, but offshore populations of rockfish have dwindled. The
new marine reserve at Ano Nuevo protects these fish and their habitats and also accommodates local sport and squid fishermen.
Jutting out at the southern end of Monterey Bay, the peninsula catches the rich ocean currents running along the coast, bringing food to the anemones, starfish, and other marine life along the peninsula's rocky shores. The Monterey peninsula draws tourists from around the world, who dive, kayak, and visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium to catch a glimpse of the wildlife underwater. The tiny Ed Ricketts marine reserve receives 64,000 diver visits each year. Because of the amazing diversity of the area, many divers asked for more protection than the Commission provided.
Beyond the grassy playgrounds of Pebble Beach and Carmel lie vibrant underwater reefs. Strawberry anemones and purple hydrocoral cover granite reefs and pinnacles, where delicate nudibranchs dance. The old Point Lobos marine reserve was one of the state's oldest protected areas and best success stories, home to big, productive rockfish and hosting thousands of human visitors each year, both on land and under the water. Point Lobos reserve has now been expanded and buffered with a conservation area, protecting underwater habitats for diving while allowing salmon fishing and improving scientific research.
Big Sur Coast
One of the most spectacular and remote locations along the central coast, Big Sur's submarine canyons and rocky pinnacles host rare coldwater corals, playful sea otters, and large rockfish. The new reserve protects one of the largest and most productive kelp beds in the state, while allowing spot prawn trappers to sustain their valuable local fishery.
As California's coastline begins to point east, currents from the north and south mix, bringing cold and warmer water species together. At Pt. Arguello, you can find tunas and rockfish, oystercatchers and pelicans, squid and sea otters. Biologists have identified this area as critical to the recovery of southern sea otters, which forage in the kelp beds south of the Point. The Vandenberg marine reserve protects wildlife and the young fish that thrive in the currents eddying along this part of the Central Coast. The currents also link this MPA to those at the Channel Islands.
- Like CalOceans on Facebook
- Follow The Pacific Ocean on Twitter
- Animated Flyover of Central Coast MPAs
- Ano Nuevo State Park
- Fact Sheet - Central California's Marine Protected Areas (pdf)
- Press Release: Central Coast Marine Protected Areas Adopted (pdf)
- Detailed Profile of Central Coast MPAs (pdf)
- California MPAs - Educational Resources
- Download our marine life coloring book (pdf)