Sign Up for Our Newsletter! »


You need Flash player 9+ and JavaScript enabled to view this video.
  • Default
  • Default

Program Area

California has one of the world’s largest networks of marine protected areas, which helps conserve 16% of the state’s ocean resources. WILDCOAST is playing a leading role in the conservation and management of these globally significant underwater parks.


California’s 545,280 acres of marine protected areas, or MPAs, provide refuge for ocean wildlife such as blue whales, white sharks and commercially valuable abalone and lobster. These marine reserves are home to towering forests of giant kelp, the rainforests of the sea, which grow unhindered from the sea floor to the surface. Sea lions, otters and seals swim over beds of surf grass that cover protected rocky reefs. Gray whales cruise through the MPAs on their way to and from their breeding lagoons in Mexico.


WILDCOAST is leading efforts to help conserve these marine refuges. Through public engagement, policy development, monitoring and education, we are making sure that California’s coastline and marine environment is as spectacular in the future as it is today.


Directly, WILDCOAST is helping to conserve and manage 17,776 acres of marine protected areas (MPAs) in San Diego County. These areas represent some of most biologically diverse and important marine ecosystems in California and the world such as kelp forests, lagoons and rocky reefs that provide food and shelter to an array of wildlife, from tiny invertebrates to fish, mammals and birds.


WILDCOAST is leading efforts to monitor human uses of California's coastal resources through the coordination of the statewide MPA Watch program. Operating in over 80 sites throughout the state, MPA Watch trains citizen scientist volunteers to observe and record data on human activities. Data is used to inform management, enforcement and implementation of California's MPA network.


Surfers, divers, beach goers, fishermen and tourists all enjoy the vibrant sea life of Southern California. After decades of over consumption of marine resources, San Diego County’s MPAs were established to rebound declining fish populations and ecosystem health and ensure that future generations can experience a healthy coastline.


WILDCOAST is working in 11 MPAs in San Diego County, these include: The Tijuana River Mouth State Marine Conservation Area adjacent to the border of Mexico, Cabrillo State Marine Reserve off of Point Loma, South La Jolla State Marine Reserve, South La Jolla State Marine Conservation Area, Matlahuayl State Marine Reserve and San Diego-Scripps State Marine Conservation Area in La Jolla, Swami’s State Marine Conservation in La Jolla in Encinitas, and four wetland MPAs in the Batiquitos Lagoon, San Elijo Lagoon, San Dieguito Lagoon and Famosa Slough.



Conservation Strategies

To make San Diego County and California's MPA network more effective, WILDCOAST is carrying out education outreach activities, helping to improve enforcement and management policy, contributing to statewide monitoring efforts and building local MPA stewardship.


WILDCOAST strategies include:


Educate San Diego County residents and visitors about the region’s MPA network through presentations, printed materials and engagement opportunities. WILDCOAST is carrying out this work on the beach, in schools, at community events, with local business and with regional media.


Engage community members in healthy recreational activities in their MPAs, such as kayaking, surfing, diving, snorkeling and tide pooling, and introducing these areas to the new generation of ocean-users.


Manage San Diego County’s MPA Watch Program with volunteers and partner organizations to collect data on how people are using the MPA network, as part of the statewide MPA Watch Program. This data, managed and analyzed by the California Ocean Science Trust, will compliment ecological information to help guide future MPA management decisions. Please contact WILDCOAST if you and/or your community group are interested in becoming an MPA Watch volunteer.


Co-chair, along with the City of Encinitas and UCSD Natural Reserve System, the San Diego County MPA Community Collaborative, a partnership of over 40 organizations, elected officials, local and state agencies, aquariums, research institutions, businesses and tribal groups, to improve MPA management in San Diego County. 


Develop policy to improve MPA management and enforcement in California. WILDCOAST co-sponsored, with Heal the Bay and the LA County District Attorney, Assembly Bill 298 (Gonzalez – San Diego) to allow the Department of Fish and Wildlife and allied agencies to cite violators with an infraction or a misdemeanor. Prior to AB 298, violations were treated only as misdemeanor crimes leading to under-enforcement of California MPAs.


Produce MPA informational signage for key MPA access points to educate the public about locations, regulations and other information. WILDCOAST and partners have installed 14 “You Are Here” signs. Interpretive panels will be installed throughout the county later in 2015.


Distribute outreach materials at key outlets including bait and tackle shops, events, lifeguard stations, tourism centers and other distribution points. WILDCOAST has developed a fish guide with a map, regulations, sample catch examples and other information as well as a recreational brochure that highlights the many activities we can do in our MPAs.


Monitor how people are using California's coastal natural resources to better inform management, enfrocement and implementation of California's 545,280 acres of MPAs.


As the leading organization in MPA management in California, in 2016 WILDCOAST has achieved the following:


  • Installed, maintained or replaced 14 You are Here signs.
  • Distributed 2,000 waterproof/tearproof fish guides and recreational brochures
  • Trained over 100 volunteers as MPA Watch Citizen Scientists
  • Engaged over 500 students and youth participants through classroom presentations, field trips and stewardship activities.
  • Educated 40 City of San Diego Lifeguards regarding MPA enforcement.


Since 2012 we have: 

  • Installed 19 informational signs at key access points to San Diego County MPAs.
  • Educated 5,200 students in San Diego County about local MPAs.
  • Engaged 835 students, residents and visitors in MPA recreational activities such as kayaking, tide pooling, diving and surfing.
  • Created, printed and distributed over 20,000 marine recreational brochures and fishing guides.
  • Co-sponsored AB 298 to improve California MPA enforcement (passed in June 2015).
  • Trained over 210 volunteers to carry out MPA Watch surveys.
  • Developed the MPA Ambassador Program to train local recreational business and groups about San Diego County MPAs. Since 2014 we have trained 41 kayak staff members about La Jolla’s MPAs.



Take Action

Sign a Petition

Become a MPA Watch volunteer!


Zachary Plopper
Conservation Director

Email this Contact
Download vCard

Cory Pukini
Conservation Coordinator

Email this Contact
Download vCard

Additional Information

Fact Sheet