Our New Marine Protected Areas

Understanding our network of protection on the north coast

Our ocean is home to a vast array of marine life, ranging from microscopic plankton up to the largest animal on earth, the blue whale.  As our understanding of the marine environment has broadened, and as we have seen the degradation and collapse of marine systems around the world, state and federal agencies have responded by protecting special areas of the coastal ocean in order to conserve habitat for this diversity of marine life.  Marine protected areas (called MPAs) have existed for many years, as special resources are protected to create more sustainable marine ecosystems, functioning much like parks on land.

California recently completed a multi-year process to establish an new integrated network of MPAs along its 1100 mile coastline. The north coast region’s MPAs were formally established last year.  For a complete look at the statewide network, regulations, and the enforcement plan, visit the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s MPA webpage.  Also, see CDFW’s MPA story by Mary Patyten.

The North Coast’s newest MPAs

MPAs restrict various activities within the designated area.  Mendocino County has 3 types of new MPAs:

  • State marine reserve: It is unlawful to injure, damage, take, or possess any living, geological, or cultural marine resource, except under a special permit.
  • State marine conservation area: It is unlawful to injure, damage, take, or possess any living, geological, or cultural marine resource that has been specifically designated a species of interest, natural community, habitat, or geological features.
  • Special closure: Prohibits access or restricts boating activities in waters adjacent to sea bird rookeries or marine mammal haul-out sites.

Click on the icons below for a quick look at each of Mendocino’s MPAs:

The Ocean Protection Council, in collaboration with the California Ocean Science Trust and UC Sea Grant, is now embarking on 3 years of scientific data collection in our region to establish baseline conditions inside the new MPAs. Check out the projects currently underway.   

As this science develops, the Noyo Center will bring it to you through talks, workshops, and other events.  If you are interested in research partnerships contributing to MPA management and our dynamic connection with the oceans, please contact us.