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 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, fat, female fish (BOFFFF) to recover, grow and replenish our ocean.
MPAs are a "network of underwater nurseries"!
The north coast region is the fourth and final coastal region to establish a network of MPAs. Within the region, 20 MPAs and 7 special closure areas were designated from the California/Oregon border in the north to Alder Creek near Point Arena in the south. The north coast additions include spectacular areas along California’s famously beautiful and remote Lost Coast. These MPAs represent approximately 137 square miles (13%) of state waters in the north coast region with approximately 51 square miles (5%) designated as "no take" state marine reserves. These MPAs were approved and adopted in June of 2012 and went into effect in December 2012.
This spectacular and rugged stretch of coastline teems with life. MPAs here are home to more than 300 species of invertebrates, fish, seabirds and marine mammals.
Bodega Head SMR runs along the shore from just south of Salmon Creek to the end of Bodega Head. Bodega Head SMCA is a triangle that extends from the end of Bodega Head south and out to sea. Whale watching from the Bodega Bay headlands is a popular activity during the annual gray whale migrations.
Estero Americano SMRMA is located in the lower stretch of the Estero, extending to the beach. Tidewater goby, ghost shrimp and mud shrimp, as well as significant seabird aggregations depend upon this habitat.
Estero de San Antonio SMRMA provides important marine and freshwater habitats for a diverse array of marine mammals and birds in addition to fish, plant, algal, and benthic resources. It is also an important component of the Pacific Flyway, one of the 4 principal bird migration routes in North America.
Explore California's Underwater Parks without getting your feet wet through new online tours!
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