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 central coast region was the second of the regions to establish a network of MPAs. This region of our coast protects some of the most biodiverse marine environments of California in areas such as the Point Reyes Peninsula, Bodega Bay headlands, and the tidepools of Montara and Gerstle Cove. Within the region 25 MPAs and 6 special closure areas were designated from Alder Creek near Point Arena in the north to Pigeon Point in the south. These MPAs represent approximately 153 square miles (20.1%) of state waters in the north central coast region with approximately 86 square miles (11%) designated as "no take" state marine reserves. These MPAs went into effect in 2010.
These MPAs protect diverse habitats and marine life in a highly scenic and relatively remote stretch of coast.
Del Mar Landing State Marine Reserve extends along the shores of Sea Ranch and modifies the pre-existing Del Mar Ecological Reserve, an MPA valued by local communities, to better protect nearshore finfish, abalone, and their habitat.
Stewarts Point SMR and Stewarts Point SMCA protect a complex rocky habitat as well as associated species like red abalone, red urchin, and rockfish. This area includes a relatively steep depth gradient and provides continuous land-sea protection and management in waters adjacent to Salt Point State Park.
Salt Point State Marine Conservation Area abuts the Stewarts Point SMR. Bull kelp thrives along this area and can grow up to 10 inches per day as it reaches for sunlight at the ocean’s surface.
The sheltered sea at Gerstle Cove SMR, a long standing MPA since 1971, and supports a productive tidepool habitat teeming with life!
Explore California's Underwater Parks without getting your feet wet through new online tours!
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