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 south coast region was the most recent of the statewide regions to establish a network of MPAs. In this region of California, marine biodiversity hot spots such as Lover’s Cove on Catalina Island, the lush kelp beds of South La Jolla, and the scuba diving destination of Naples Reef are protected while leaving over 80% of the coast waters open for fishing. Fifty MPAs and 2 special closure areas were designated from Point Conception in the north to the U.S./Mexico border in the south. The network of MPAs includes 13 MPAs and 2 special closures that were previously established at the northern Channel Islands. All together these MPAs cover approximately 354 square miles of state waters and represent approximately 15% of the region. These MPAs went into effect in 2012.
Swami’s State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA) extends offshore of Encinitas and protects 12.7 square miles of vibrant rocky reef, thriving kelp forests, and extensive surf grass habitat where lobsters, halibut, grunion, and many other fish and invertebrates feed and breed. When it went into effect in 2012, Swami’s SMCA became the largest MPA in San Diego County. Swami’s SMCA offers spectacular opportunities for all to enjoy including kayaking, surfing, swimming, tide pooling, snorkeling, and diving.
Explore California's Underwater Parks without getting your feet wet through new online tours!
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