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.
Check out Central Coast MPA Tour. And while you're at it, check out North Coast MPA Tour. Based on Google Earth and requires 3D plug in for your browser; follow instructions.
Año Nuevo and Greyhound Rock State Marine Conservation Areas (SMCAs)
The rich biodiversity area around Año Nuevo and Greyhound Rock is home to more than 300 species of invertebrates, as well as numerous fish, seabirds and marine mammals. MPAs here support thriving species while also helping to restore endangered or threatened marine life such as marbled murrelet seabirds. Greyhound Rock SMCA extends from the rock to the north end of Scott Creek Beach. There is parking at Greyhound Rock, which gives access to a sandy beach and view of the popular rock. This MPA allows for the recreational take of giant kelp by hand, squid, salmon, and finfish by hook-and-line from shore only; the commercial take of salmon, squid, and giant kelp by hand. Año Nuevo SMCA extends from just north of Gazos Creek to Greyhound Rock. Visit Año Nuevo State Park to take a walk through its complex dune community, along the wind-whipped beaches, and look out at the world famous elephant seal haul-out and breeding grounds. Waddell Beach to the south, a favorite with wind surfers, is included in the SMCA. This MPA only allows the commercial take of giant kelp by hand.
Explore California's Underwater Parks without getting your feet wet through new online tours!
Based on Google Earth and requires 3D plug in for your browser; follow instructions.