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Translation: Marine Protected Area’s For the Win.

Congratulations Southern California! You are about to become a little more awesome. How is this even possible you might ask? With precious commodities such as Disneyland, unrivaled Mexican food this side of the border, and Real California cheese it seems unlikely that the land of sand and sunny could get any better. However, as we bring in the New Year So Cal can add yet another tick to the “This is Why I’m Hot” List.

Let’s break it down shall we…

January 1st, 2012, as apart of the Marine Life Protection Act initiated by the California Fish and Game Commission in 1999, over 37 new/modified Marine Protected Area’s (MPA) were put into place from Point Conception (Santa Barbara County) all the way down to the U.S./Mexican Border. Bringing the grand total of MPA’s in the SoCal region to 50, covering an area of approximately 354 square miles. Dang.

Now as I jump for joy telling all of my friends why this makes California so awesome, this news is more often than not received with blank looks and awkward facial expressions. Why? Most people have no idea what I am talking about let alone know why they should care. So, in order to clear up some confusion and get everyone on the same page, let me take some time to shed light on the questions I have been getting. (Feel free to use this information in casual conversation to impress your friends and family with how smart you are.)

MPA 101:

I know it says 'national' and we are talking at the 'state' level, but it's cute so go with me on this one.

What is a MPA?

An MPA or Marine Protected Area is a designated region of marine or estuarine habitat that is protected and enforced under law. Various areas have different protections and in California waters there are three types of MPAs:

  1. State Marine Reserves (SMR): no extractive activities are allowed here, such as fishing or the harvesting of kelp; Science-ing is okay, but only with a permit.
  2. State Marine Parks: no commercial take here (Sorry, all those fans playing “Deadliest Catch” out there will need to keep it outside the boundaries from now on)
  3. State Marine Conservation Areas (SMCA): does not allow for some combination of commercial and/or recreational take

Why are they put into place?

The California coast is over 1,100 miles long and littered with human activities. Coastal development, water pollution, fishing you name it, we do it. Unfortunately, you can imagine such actions leave marine ecosystems and the life contain in quite a predicament. “In California, the State Legislature found that these activities have the potential to stress marine ecosystems, impact habitat, and threaten biological diversity. (CA Department of Fish and Game)” So if there is to be any hope that such activities do not completely decimate marine habitats and biodiversity, MPA’s are put into place. Seems pretty easy right…just put them into place….wrong. Keep reading.

How do they get put into place?

So let’s look at all the peeps who use coastal waters. Fisherman Fish. Scientists Science. Environmentalists…do crazy things we don’t always understand to help save the oceans in their own unique way, but ultimately they have a good heart. Recreationally, there is a lot going on, between skinny dipping, surfing, boating, and all that other fun stuff. Oh and let’s not forget the animals who actually LIVE there.

Essentially what I am trying to get across is that there are many different interests to consider when setting up such areas. So things get a little…well…complicated. Luckily, the wonderful State of California realized whose interests weren’t really being looked out for (Can you guess whose?) and decided to do something about it.

(Did I mention CA is awesome yet?)

Hence, the Marine Life Protection Act:

“ ES.2.2 Marine Life Protection Act

In 1999, the California state legislature approved and the governor signed the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA; codified at Sections 2850 through 2863 of the Fish and Game Code, references herein to specific  portions of the MLPA refer to these code sections). In determining the need for the act the legislature held that “California’s marine protected areas (MPAs) were established on a piecemeal basis rather than according to a coherent plan and sound scientific guidelines. Many of these MPAs lack clearly defined purposes, effective management measures, and enforcement. As a result, the existing array of MPAs creates the illusion of protection while falling far short of  its potential to protect and conserve living marine life and habitat” (MLPA Section 2851).

In enacting the MLPA, the legislature declared that “California’s extraordinary marine biological diversity is a vital asset to the state and nation. The diversity of species and ecosystems found in the state’s ocean waters is important to public health and well-being, ecological health, and ocean-dependent industry” (MLPA Section 2851(b)). The legislature also held that coastal development, water pollution, and other human activities threaten the health of marine habitat and the biological diversity found in California’s ocean waters. New technologies and demands have encouraged the expansion of fishing and other activities to formerly inaccessible marine areas that once  recharged nearby fisheries. As a result, ecosystems throughout the state’s ocean waters are being altered, often at a rapid rate (MLPA Sections 2851(c) and (d)).

The MLPA directs the state to redesign California’s system of MPAs to function as a network in order to: increase coherence and effectiveness in protecting the state’s marine life and habitats, marine ecosystems, and marine natural heritage, as well as to improve recreational, educational, and study opportunities provided by marine ecosystems subject to minimal human disturbance (Department 2008).

Six goals guide the development of MPAs in the MLPA planning process, codified at MLPA Section 2853(b), including:

1. Protect the natural diversity and abundance of marine life, and the structure, function, and integrity of marine ecosystems.

2. Help sustain, conserve, and protect marine life populations, including those of economic value, and rebuild those that are depleted.

3. Improve recreational, educational, and study opportunities provided by marine ecosystems that are subject to minimal human disturbance, and manage these uses in a manner consistent with protecting biodiversity.

4. Protect marine natural heritage, including protection of representative and unique marine life habitats in California waters for their intrinsic values.

5. Ensure California’s MPAs have clearly  defined objectives, effective management measures, and adequate enforcement and are based on sound scientific guidelines.

6. Ensure the state’s MPAs are designed and managed, to the extent possible, as a network.”

(CA Marine Life Protection Act, Department of Fish and Game)

So after numerous long, long meetings, delegation and people putting in their interests and opinions, compromises were made and boundaries were decided.

Where will they be located?

With 8 new State Marine reserves and 29 new State Marine Conservation Areas, not to mention the areas already protected, the list and all their separate regulations is too long to put here (and there are different regulations for each area, so be advised). Plus it would just mess up the layout of my blog and be way more confusing. So here is the link with the areas both new and old and their regulations/definitions:

On this website, you may also find a blow up of the picture below so you don’t have to get your microscopes out to read it. However, if you want to, the use of scientific instruments to make everyday life a little more awesome is fully condoned here.

CHECK THIS OUT: For the truly tech savvy ones out there with all of your smart phone-ness. There is now MPA Mobile. I believe this is an APP that will give you all the necessary information right on your little iPhone including: Where the boundaries are, what you can/cannot take from the MPA you are in, and other pertinent information.

Why should I care?

#1 Reason to Care: You don’t want to pay the major fines/get arrested for taking from a Marine Protected Area.

But for those of you who need more than that….

If you’re an angler, you may already know about such areas and most definitely care because now you have to move your favorite fishing spot. Sorry guys I know it sucks, but remember there were compromises made on all ends. Such regulations save the very fish you may make a living off of, however, with time, stocks will increase and the bounty will spill over the lines and be better then ever. Just give it time.

If you’re an environmentalist, congrats, this is one less thing you have to picket for.

If you’re a scientist, this should bring you great hope. These MPA’s were put into place in certain designated areas as a result of many years of hard work and research performed by numerous scientists up and down the coast. This is living proof that science does work and that it can be used to make a difference, so keep up the good work.

If you’re everyone else, and you don’t think that this will affect you. Think again. Biodiversity and costal habitats acrossCaliforniaand globally are being threatened now more than ever before. Such protections allow decimated areas to recover and flourish for all to enjoy. My recommendations: Go out there and enjoy it. Care about it. Learn about it and realize why it so important for us to save. I can’t give you a definite reason to care, everyone has there own.

Where can I find more information/get involved/questions/comments/concerns/all of the above?

Marine Life Protection Act:

Marine Protected Area Literature:

Frequently Asked Questions:



MPA Project

c/o California Department of Fish and Game

1812Ninth Street



*Or just leave your question in the comment box and I will do my best to find you an answer as soon as possible.

DJ’s advice to the peeps: Don’t forget to tell all your friends. Not only will you sound super smart, but homies don’t let homies get tickets for taking from a Marine Protected Area. These regions are now enforced by California state law and DFG wardens are out and about. So spread the word and spread the love.


Disclaimer (Just in case): We here at DJ’s Locker look only to INFORM our readers to the best and most accurate of our knowledge of scientific happenings and news from the watery realm. We are in no way responsible for what you do/do not do with the information provided here. As an individual YOU are responsible to know the laws and abide by them. So when looking for a scapegoat in court because you got caught with your pole where it shouldn’t have been, don’t come looking here.

–The Locker


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