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January 04, 2012

New Year Brings New Protections for California Coast

Press Release
Photo by Dana Roeber Murray - Point Loma, San Diego, CA.

Southern California’s most iconic ocean areas become underwater parks on January 1

SACRAMENTO – On January 1, southern California will celebrate the grand opening of a series of underwater parks, or “marine protected areas.” These parks will join a growing statewide system that currently dots the shore from Santa Barbara to Mendocino, and will soon stretch the length of California’s coast. They were created through the landmark Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA).

“January 1 is a real turning point for southern California’s ocean,” said Greg Helms of Ocean Conservancy. “By protecting hot spots like South La Jolla, Point Dume and Laguna, we are charting a course towards greater sustainability, and that means better fishing, diving, kayaking, tidepooling and birding for our children.”  

Coastal tourism and recreation are a major economic engine for California. A 2009 study showed that over 90 percent of coastal recreation in southern California is non-consumptive. According to the National Ocean Economics Program, California’s coast and ocean generate $22 billion in revenue and drive over 350,000 jobs each year.

The marine protected areas going into effect were designed by local fishermen, conservationists and business leaders to protect the most productive ocean areas while leaving nearly 90 percent of the coast open for fishing (see a map of fishing areas left open).  Most of the new protected areas are adjacent to public beaches and state parks, creating great opportunities for education, research, and recreation.  A couple of areas—Kashtayit west of Santa Barbara and Matlahuayl near San Diego—were designed to protect and showcase tribal cultural history in the south coast region.

"The ocean is more than just a source of fish—it’s a vital piece of our shared natural and cultural heritage,” said Diane Castaneda of WiLDCOAST. “Our community has been overwhelmingly supportive of marine protected areas, and is excited to help spread the word and study their results."

Southern California already has one marine protected area success story: the Channel Islands marine reserve network, created in 2002, is helping to rebuild depleted fish populations and restore the kelp forest.  A five year review found that rockfish numbers were up by 50 percent, and their size by 80 percent. And the Department of Fish and Game found no evidence the marine reserves impacted fisheries value,

“Like parks on land, these new marine protected areas are a huge opportunity to connect with nature,” said Sarah Sikich of Heal the Bay. “From Heal the Bay’s own MPA Watch program to Underwater Parks Day events at local aquaria, there are lots of opportunities for people to get involved and learn.”

For more information visit


Diane Castaneda, WiLDCOAST/COSTASALVAJE 619-279-4363,

Greg Helms, Ocean Conservancy, 805.886.8645,

Sarah Sikich, 310.849.7006,