CalOceans News


California Adopts North Coast Marine Protected Areas & Creates Nation’s First Statewide Underwater Park System

June 8th, 2012

California made history June 6 when the Fish and Game Commission voted unanimously to adopt a network of marine protected areas for northern California. The new protections were designed by local fishermen, divers, tribes, business owners and conservationists. 
The vote marks the completion of the United States’ first statewide network of underwater parks, and a huge step toward long-term environmental and economic health for the coast. As Commissioner Richard Rogers put it: "We are poised to return California's marine resources to the sustainable abundance we all once enjoyed."
The Los Angeles Times called the new parks “the final link in the nation's first comprehensive statewide chain of marine sanctuaries.”

“We are going to reap the benefits of this for many years to come,” said Fish and Game Commission Vice President Michael Sutton, founding director of the Center for the Future of the Oceans at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Karen Garrison, co-director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's oceans program, told the Associated Press that "by safeguarding our iconic ocean places — and the rich web of life they support — these jewels of the coast will help revive depleted fish populations and draw people to the coast to enjoy our remarkable marine wildlife." 

Kaitilin Gaffney, Pacific program director for the Ocean Conservancy, told the Santa Cruz Sentinel, "the idea is that in the ocean, you get a synergistic effect…If you have Marine Protected Areas and they're spaced appropriately, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts."

The Lake County News called the decision “a major milestone” and quoted Arcata Assemblyman Wes Chesbro:  “It’s unanimous: We on the North Coast all support protecting our ocean fishery resources and we highly value sustainable commercial, recreational and traditional harvests.” 

AP quoted Priscilla Hunter of the InterTribal Sinkyone Wilderness Council, who noted that officials had come a long way in recognizing the concerns of Native Americans:  "The start of this process was very difficult and contentious ... but we have ended in a very positive place with a strong framework for future tribal consultation on important conservation and environmental issues."

Jen Savage with Ocean Conservancy told the Eureka Times Standard that the remarkable community buy-in of the project influenced the commission to adopt “everything as the stakeholders designed it.”   The underwater parks protect California’s most iconic ocean areas, including La Jolla, the Big Sur Coast, and Point Reyes. The North coast additions include spectacular areas along California’s famously beautiful and remote Lost Coast.

On the Central Coast, Cambria recreational fisherman Jim Webb told Public News Service radio he's already seeing greater fish populations and more economic opportunities from increased tourism as a result of the MPAs he played a role in establishing. He praised the new network.  "I personally think it's a tribute to California that they're leading the charge in this regard, perhaps leading the whole nation, if not the world, in getting this network implemented."

Further north, Cindy Walter, owner of Passionfish Restaurant in Pacific Grove, told the Santa Cruz Sentinel that because the local restaurant industry relies on fresh fish and beautiful coastlines, "these new marine protections are money in the bank for California's tourism industry and restaurant owners like me,"

For more information about the Marine Life Protection Act, visit  A map of the new statewide marine protected area network can be found here.

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