Marine Protected Areas Created in California's North Central Coast

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Date: August 21, 2009
Contact: Jessica Luo, 415-464-5132

The highly productive Drakes Bay area in Point Reyes is slated to be a major marine protected area, much of it a marine reserve.
The highly productive Drakes Bay area in Point Reyes is slated to be a major marine protected area, much of it a marine reserve.

Earlier this month, California's Fish and Game Commission approved a sweeping plan to protect ocean habitats in 24 marine protected areas (MPAs) in state and federal waters, in accordance with the Marine Life Protection Act, a state law passed in 1999.

The north central coast study region, the second area in California where MPAs have been created, includes over 200 miles of central California coast and encompasses waters within Point Reyes National Seashore and Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Off the coast of Point Reyes National Seashore, there will be five MPAs and three "no disturbance" special closures for marine bird and mammals colonies. These MPAs include two fully protected no-take marine reserves, two marine conservation areas where some take is allowed, and one marine park. NPS currently has jurisdiction out to a quarter-mile off the coast of park lands. These newly created MPAs will cover waters up to three miles off the coast.

The Fish and Game Commission adopted a plan that was developed during two years of public discussion, scientific study and participation by various parties with an interest in ocean protection. The National Park Service has been involved with this process by attending public meetings, helping draft proposed MPAs, serving on the scientific advisory team, conducting education and outreach initiatives, and by providing funding for three years of MPA monitoring.

The network of MPAs:

  • Fully protects about 86 square miles of north central coast ocean waters in 11 "no-take" state marine reserves;
  • Protects an additional 69 square miles of ocean waters in nine state marine conservation areas and two state marine parks (where some marine take is allowed; regulations vary by site); and
  • Sets aside six "no disturbance" special closures for marine bird and mammal protection, typically 300 feet or 1000 feet off shore

In the waters adjacent to Point Reyes National Seashore (see Map, 207 KB PDF), the following MPAs were created:

  • Point Reyes State Marine Reserve (SMR) includes the area about 0.25 to 0.5 mi off the Point Reyes Headlands, parts of Drakes Bay and the southern part of Drakes Estero.
  • Point Reyes State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA) extends from the end of Point Reyes SMR to the three mile state line. This SMCA allows for commercial salmon trolling and Dungeness crab by trap.
  • Estero de Limantour SMR includes all of Limantour Estero.
  • Drakes Estero SMCA is in Drakes Estero north of the Point Reyes SMR and allows for shellfish mariculture and recreational clamming. The plan also states, "if at any time, it becomes feasible to create a SMR at Drakes Estero, this proposal recommends doing so."
  • Duxbury State Marine Park (SMP) is located at the intertidal zone of Duxbury Reef and is intended to protected intertidal invertebrates and algae. This SMP allows for finfish take from shore and abalone take.
  • 1000' special closure around Point Reyes Headlands.
  • Two 300' special closures around Point Resistance and Stormy Stack (next to Double Point).

There is a global body of scientific evidence about the effectiveness of marine reserves in restoring marine ecosystems. Many marine scientists, conservationists, fishermen, divers and surfers hope that these MPAs in California’s oceans will help restore our declining fisheries and ensure the continuation of these natural resources for generations to come.

The adopted network of MPAs is this region of California is scheduled to go into effect in February 2010. Continued monitoring, enforcement and education are essential for the success of these MPAs.

For more information, view our "What are Marine Protected Areas?" poster (510 KB PDF), read our Marine Life Protection Act newsletter (571 KLB PDF) or contact Jessica Luo at 415-464-5132 or by email.


Last updated: April 8, 2019

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