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The Marine Life Protection Act Initiative


The Marine Life Protection Act Initiative

On September 21st, after one of the most intensive public processes in ocean governance, the first round of 29 new MPAs (204 square miles) will go into effect on the Central Coast.

The new designations significantly increase the protection that marine life living in these areas receive (see map below). These protections include long-term safe havens for rockfish and other bottom fishes, migration corridors for salmon, and a diverse environment that abalone, kelp and numerous marine mammals and seabirds need to survive. The California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) has developed a comprehensive Web site at that includes regulations and detailed maps of each of the newly formed MPAs.

In 1999 the California Legislature approved the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) mandating the state to design and manage an improved network of marine protected areas (MPAs) in state waters. The intent was to protect marine life and habitats, marine ecosystems, and marine natural heritage. In many ways these goals mirror those of the Sanctuary, and over the last eight years, the Sanctuary has been working with the state to achieve the common vision of healthy marine ecosystem.

mlpa map
Click Here For Larger Map

The Sanctuary's Role in Designation

The Sanctuary is proud of the role it played in the creation of these new areas. When the MLPA initiative began, the Sanctuary had its own initiative underway to consider MPA's in the Sanctuary. As it became clear the MLPA was moving forward, the Sanctuary shifted the focus of its efforts to federal waters (beyond 3 nautical miles from shore), letting the state take the lead in state waters. To learn more about the Sanctuary's process considering MPAs in federal waters, click here.

Sanctuary staff were active participants in the MLPA Regional Stakeholder group and helped lead the effort to find a compromise between competing proposals. The Sanctuary also partnered with CDFG and Initiative staff to develop products to be used in both processes such as a web based decision support tool, socioeconomic information, and a wide range of GIS layers.

The Sanctuary's Role in Implementation

The Sanctuary has offered to assist the California Resources Agency and the Department of Fish and Game to implement these new MPAs by partnering in the areas of research, education, and enforcement.

seastarThe Sanctuary Program has a new 65' research vessel, the R/V Fulmar, based in Monterey that is already proving to be a valuable asset to the MLPA monitoring effort. Understanding the role the new MPAs will play in protecting the ecosystem is a high priority for the Sanctuary. We are already working with researchers collecting baseline information in the new MPAs in order to later determine the ecological effects of the new protections. The Sanctuary Program also has an extensive, collaborative program to monitor all of the natural resources of Central California and make the information available to the public ( Moreover, we have played an integral role in the monitoring and understanding of the state MPAs in the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary and look forward to working closely with the state in the specific, long term monitoring of these new MPAs on the central coast.

In the future the Sanctuary Program also has another new 85' patrol boat coming on line, which can also be used to assist the state with MPA enforcement. We are also exploring ways in which the Sanctuary program can bring its extensive experience in the areas of education and outreach to MPA implementation, whether through signage, print materials, workshops, educational curricula, or on the water outreach.

Related Links

For more information on the science of MPAs and MPA processes please visit the following sites:


Reviewed: April 11, 2024
Web Site Owner: National Ocean Service

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