Cabrillo Marine Aquarium
News Splash

Underwater Park System

California made history on June 6 when the Fish and Game Commission voted to adopt a network of Marine Protected Areas for northern California. The vote marks the completion of the United States’ first statewide network of underwater parks, protecting California’s most iconic coastal waters and sea life, from rockfish and razor clams to Steller sea lions and shorebirds.

While today’s meeting was held in Eureka, the news was heralded all over the state, where similar community-led marine protected area planning efforts have taken place region by region over the past eight years.

“These underwater parks are special places in the ocean that enable kids and adults to study and appreciate marine wildlife without taking anything away but pictures and memories,” said Mike Schaadt, director of Cabrillo Marine Aquarium in San Pedro.  "Ocean health is under threat all over the world, so I'm proud that California has taken this historic step of creating a statewide network of marine reserves for generations to enjoy."

“As a Californian and a mom, I am glad to know my children and their children will be able to enjoy the beauty and bounty of our spectacular coast,” said Kaitilin Gaffney, Pacific Program Director of Ocean Conservancy. “And as a surfer and kayaker, I can't wait to get out and enjoy the new ocean parks that span our state.”  

The protected areas were created through the landmark Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) of 1999. Over the last eight years, conservationists, business owners, scientists, tribes, fishermen, recreational ocean users and government officials met up and down the coast to collaboratively design the network. It is one of the largest, most public natural resource management initiatives ever undertaken.

Underwater parks in southern California include:
  • Naples Reef, located off Santa Barbara’s Gaviota Coast, home to an underwater pinnacle and cave system that captivates scuba divers and explorers. White sea bass patrol for squid and anchovy, and are joined by pelicans and harbor seals.
  • Palos Verdes, whose beaches, kelp forests, surfgrass beds, reefs and canyon draw beachgoers, surfers,and kayakers from around the world and support an array of marine plants and animals.
  • La Jolla, which boasts one of southern California’s most vibrant kelp forests and rocky reefs that provides food and shelter for hundreds of species. Divers and snorkelers can see leopard sharks, rays and brilliant orange garibaldi darting through the kelp and surf grass.
Since the areas were designated, many Southern California schoolkids, teachers and ocean lovers have taken part in hands-on learning about life beneath the waves. Citizen science efforts like MPA Watch are coordinated by Heal the Bay and Santa Barbara Channel Keeper and enable volunteers to combine their love of the beach and ocean while collecting valuable scientific data around the protected areas. The information is used to inform enforcement and management agencies.  

For more information on the statewide network, contact Kaitilin Gaffney, Director of Ocean Conservancy’s Pacific Program, at 831.332.9327.  For a Southern California and marine science perspective: Mike Schaadt, director of Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, 310-548-2995.

More info on and photos of California’s marine reserves for download are at

photo credit: NOAA

Post Date: Friday, June 8, 2012


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