Under this MLPA (Marine Life Protection Act) initiative, California’s marine waters were divided into five sub-regions for purposes of developing networks of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), essentially no-fishing zones. To date, this process has already closed hundreds of square miles of prime fishing waters in California’s Central and North Central Coast regions, with more regulations in store for the South Coast, North Coast, and San Francisco Bay. The MPAs proposed and approved under the MLPA cover 15-20% of the state’s total waters, but are located in many of the best habitats and fishing grounds, making the overall loss of fishing opportunity significantly greater. Central Coast
California’s Central Coast MPAs were the first to go into effect, on September 21, 2007. From Pigeon Point (San Mateo County) south to Point Conception (Santa Barbara County), the series of 29 marine protected areas represent approximately 204 square miles (or approximately 18 percent) of state waters in the Central Coast Study Region.
California’s North Central Coast MPAs went into effect May 1, 2010, from Alder Creek, near Point Arena (Mendocino County) to Pigeon Point (San Mateo County). The series of 22 MPAs, three State Marine Recreational Management Areas, and six special closures, covers approximately 153 square miles (20.1 percent) of state waters in the North Central Coast study region. Approximately 86 square miles (11 percent) of the 153 square miles are designated as “no take” state marine reserves, while different take allowances providing varying levels of protection are designated for the rest.
On December 15, 2010, the California Fish and Game Commission adopted regulations to create a suite of MPAs in this study region. The regulatory package must still be approved by the Office of Administrative Law before finalizing the lawmaking process. A pending lawsuit filed by members of the Partnership for Sustainable Oceans also seeks to invalidate these regulations before they go into place, as well as those for the North Central Coast.
This network of 49 MPAs and three special closures would cover approximately 354 square miles of state waters and represents approximately 15 percent of the region. If these regulations go into effect, popular areas like La Jolla, Point Dume, Laguna Beach, and many others will be closed indefinitely.
Click here to view detailed maps and descriptions of each proposed closed area.
The North Coast study region (California/Oregon border to Alder Creek near Point Arena in Mendocino County) process started back in June 2009. Planning groups have identified a preferred network of MPAs, though the planning process has been marred by tribal issues that have yet to be resolved. For more information, visit www.dfg.ca.gov/mlpa/northcoast.asp.
Work has not begun on the final phase — San Francisco Bay.