New Marine Protected Areas Safeguard Northern California’s Iconic Coastal Areas

“Underwater parks” will boost the region’s environmental and economic health

SACRAMENTO—On May 1, California’s underwater state park system will expand to include iconic north central coast areas like Point Reyes Headlands, the Farallon Islands, and Fitzgerald Marine Reserve. Last August the California Fish & Game Commission approved a sweeping marine protected area plan that sets aside northern California’s ocean hot spots to boost the health and productivity of the entire coastline.

The science-based marine protected area network, which extends from Point Arena to Pigeon Point, is designed to restore sea life and protect habitat. It creates 21 marine protected areas, 3 marine management areas and 6 special closures. Eighty-six square miles (11 percent) of state waters along the north central coast have been designated as fully protected marine reserves, leaving almost 90 percent of the coast open to fishing.
This marks the latest step in a five-stage process to implement the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA), which requires the state to develop a network of marine protected areas down the entire 1,100 mile coastline. California is the first state in the country to propose such a comprehensive plan to protect its marine resources. The MLPA planning process is well underway in the far north and south coasts, with statewide implementation expected by 2011.

“We need a healthy ocean for a healthy economy and environment, but our coastal waters face threats that require visionary action,” said Karen Garrison of Natural Resources Defense Council, who participated in the negotiations. “The Marine Life Protection Act allows us to create a legacy of healthy, resilient oceans for our kids and grandkids.”  

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