California's Underwater Parks
In December 2012, California became an international leader in ocean protection by completing the United States’ first statewide network of marine protected areas (MPAs). Like the nation’s parks, forests and wilderness areas protect wildlife and habitats on land, MPAs protect and restore unique areas of the ocean. California’s MPAs come in many “flavors”; the size and level of protection, including fishing restrictions, can vary from one area to the next. Also called underwater parks or “Yosemites of the Sea”, they’re designed to protect plants and animals within an entire ecosystem, rather than protecting just a single species and ensure healthy, vibrant ocean life for generations to come.
California’s MPAs safeguard critical ocean habitat, allowing sensitive marine communities such as rocky reefs and seagrass beds to thrive and recover. They also protect biodiversity hotspots and important foraging grounds that support numerous species of fish and invertebrates, as well as seabirds and marine mammals. This in turn benefits a wide range of species including plants like bull kelp, invertebrates like sea stars, and marine mammals such as seals and otters. As safe havens, underwater parks offer a home and refuge for Big, Old, Fertile, Female (BOFF) fish to recover, grow and replenish our ocean.
MPAs are a "network of underwater nurseries"!
The central coast region of California was the first of the four coastal regions to establish a network of MPAs. Underwater parks in the central coast protect areas like the iconic Point Lobos, winding waterways of Elkhorn Slough, the tidepools of Natural Bridges, the elephant seal rookery at Piedras Blancas and many more important marine environments! Altogether, 29 MPAs were designated from Pigeon Point in the north to Point Conception in the south. These MPAs represent approximately 204 square miles (18%) of state waters within the region with approximately 85 square miles (7.5%) designated as "no take" state marine reserves. These MPAs went into effect in 2007.
Explore California's Underwater Parks without getting your feet wet through new online tours!
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Point Lobos State Marine Reserve(SMR), State Marine Conservation Area(SMCA), Carmel Pinnacles(SMR) and Carmel Bay(SMCA)
Point Lobos - crown jewel for California, teems with life; hiking trails offer breathtaking vistas of sea-splashed cliffs, windswept cypress trees, and lush kelp beds. It's so spectacular both above and below the water that the state prohibits removal of any natural resources on land or in the water.
Carmel Bay, unsurpassed ocean recreational playground, is a destination for divers and kayakers attracted to its pinnacle formations, granite reefs, and kelp forests.
Carmel Pinnacles- just off Cypress Point and Pescadero Point at Pebble Beach. Only a few places along 17-mile drive where you can view it. Kayaking from Stillwater Cove offers the best views of its lush kelp beds. It's a no-take area.
Carmel Bay SMCA follows Carmel beach shoreward of Pescadero Point to Monastery Beach. Surfing and sun bathing are popular. Recreational take of finfish and the commercial harvest of kelp is allowed.
Historically, Point Lobos played host to many industries: fishing, whaling, granite quarry, coal port and abalone fishing operation. Today, it's recognized by nature enthusiasts who hike, photograph, kayak, SCUBA, snorkel, and enjoy a “look but do NOT disturb” approach to wildlife.
Point Lobos SMR is no-take area between Monastery Beach and Mal Paso Creek. Much is visible from Point Lobos State Natural Reserve with miles of hiking trails. Look for nesting cormorants on uplifted rock formations along the beach, and sea otters in the kelp beds.
Point Lobos SMCA abuts the Point Lobos SMR further offshore. The best way to visit this area is from a whale watching boat from Monterey’s Fishermen’s Wharf.
Recreational fishing for salmon and albacore and commercial fishing for salmon, albacore, and spot prawn are allowed.