MPAs of the Golden Gate

Shark Stewards is a leading partner of the Golden Gate Marine Protected Area Collaborative Network, whose mission is to conduct citizen science in our MPAs, help communicate the importance of Marine Protected Areas along the San Francisco and Marin shorelines and assist fishermen to comply with the regulations under the Marine Life Protection Act.

Golden Gate Marine Protected Area

The Golden Gate MPA Collaborative is represented by State Parks, Fish and Wildlife Service at the Farallon Islands, the Point Reyes National Seashore, California Academy of Sciences, NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries, Greater Farallones Association, Seabird Protection Network, Environmental Action Committee of West Marin, additional marine and coastal non-profit organizations, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The Golden Gate MPA Collaborative co- chaired by David McGuire, Shark Stewards; Morgan Patton, Environmental Action Committee of West Marin; and Paul Hobi, Seabird Protection Network. The work group is tasked with developing tools and stakeholder engagement to help increase awareness about marine protected areas and setbacks, and minimize incursions by fishermen into protected areas in MPAS around San Francisco and Marin Counties.  The Collaborative is supported by grants from Resources Legacy Fund and the Ocean Protection Council.

California is the first state in the nation to establish a system of MPAs – similar to national parks and forests on land – to protect and restore ocean habitats and increase the health, productivity, and resilience of ocean ecosystems. Under the California Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) passed in 1999, California took a regional approach to the design and implementation of MPAs along its 1,100 mile coastline, and divided the state into five regions: the north coast, north central coast, central coast, south coast and San Francisco Bay. The state completed the coastal network of MPAs in 2012, creating over 120 underwater refuges along California’s coast, extending protection from Oregon to Mexico.

CA MPA Data Dive

Shark Stewards is partnering with the California Academy of Sciences, The California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Bamboo Reef, Eco Dive Center, Blue Endeavors, Ocean Sanctuaries and other groups to dive California MPAs and collect observations on subtidal species. Trained divers act as citizen scientists collecting observations by camera and logging them into the iNaturalist database. Periodically we have organized dives up and down the state, and larger events such as Snapshot Cal Coast.

What Kind of Marine Protected Areas are in State Waters?

Types of MPAs: Marine Protected Areas come in all types of shapes, sizes, and purposes. As the coastal resources are a public trust, it is necessary to balance needs for multiple use with conservation priorities. The MLPA provides for this by defining four different types of MPAs:

  • State Marine Reserves (SMR)
    These restrict all commercial and recreational activities, keeping the area free from human impact as possible.
  • State Marine Conservation Areas (SMCA)
    These are areas that have specific goals for conservation and activities are restricted to meet the conservation goals.
  • State Marine Parks (SMP)
    These allow opportunities for education, research, and recreation, while preventing commercial extractive activities.
  • State Marine Recreational Management Areas (SMRMA)
    These are areas intended to protect certain recreational activities. Other types of activities that may interfere or compete with the specifically protected recreation are restricted.
  • Special Closures
    Special Closures are areas designated by the Fish and Game Commission that prohibit access or restrict boating activities in waters adjacent to sea bird rookeries or marine mammal haul-out sites (restrictions vary).

What is the MPA Process in California?

Implementing the MLPA: A Stakeholder Process  The MLPA process was a stakeholder driven process that used the best readily available science to design a network of MPAs that spans the entire California coast. The purpose of this network is to: 1) conserve key marine habitats, 2) allow marine life to thrive, 3) preserve natural diversity, 4) help rebuild depleted populations, and 5) offer recreational, research, and economic opportunities.

A Regional Process California took a regional approach to the design and implementation of MPAs along its 1,100 mile coastline, and divided the state into five study regions: the north coast, south coast, north central coast, central coast and San Francisco Bay. All California Marine Protected Area Fact Sheets from the Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Monterey Sanctuary Foundation. North Central Coast  Twenty-five MPAs and 6 special closure areas were designated in the north central coast, between Alder Creek near Point Arena in the north and Pigeon Point in the south. These became effective in May of 2010. MPAs in this study region includes 10 SMRs, 12 SMCAs, and 3 SMRMA. The MPAs cover 20% of state waters, with 11% being no-take state marine reserves. North Central Coast Map


MPA Education Resources
Download a toolkit and other MPA educational materials from the California Fish and Wildlife website and learn about marine protected areas.  Download the Golden Gate MPA Brochure to learn about MPAs near the San Francisco Bay Area. The Golden Gate MPA Collaborative Ambassador program has developed outreach materials for use by fishermen and public at the South East Farallon Island, Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, Duxbury Reef and Point Reyes. Download a toolkit and other education materials from the California MPAS website and learn about MPAs.  

MPA Information
Charter boat captains and whale watch vessels help support the MPA network by distributing materials and information about California’s network of MPAs. Information kiosks and signage have been installed at key ports and harbors to provide information for the general public and fisherman about MPAs and their locations.

MPA Public Engagement Opportunities

The public is able to participate to support MPAs in many different ways by volunteering with programs like MPA Watch, Beach Watch and LIMPETS.

MPA Watch Trainings

On-shore teams will help provide training to educators, docents and others who are interacting along the coastline (e.g. MPA Watch, Beach Watch where Citizen scientists can help with this program by joining the MPA Watch programMPA Watch is a citizen science initiative to monitor human use of coastal natural resources by training and supporting volunteers in the collection of relevant, scientifically rigorous, and broadly accessible data. Data are meant to inform the management, enforcement, and science of California’s marine protected areas (MPAs) and allow us to see how human uses are changing as a result of MPA implementation. By involving local communities in this important work, MPA Watch programs inspire and empower stewardship, and educate citizens about California’s ocean ecosystems.

Off shore team members will include charter boat captains and whale watch vessels who engage with the public near the marine protected areas off shore.  

The San Francisco Bay Deserves Our Protection

The San Francisco Bay is an important and complex ecological system whose influence extends from the Sierras to the Sea.  In the past century, the Bay has undergone dramatic change. Nearly 95% of wetlands habitat have been impacted.  Dredging, pollution, and toxic runoff have impacted marine life and overfishing is causing our fisheries to collapse. The San Francisco Bay is an important nursery for several species of sharks and rays.

The Healthy Bay initiative helps to better understand and help conserve our remaining living resources, including sharks, and to support habitat restoration and ecosystems in the Bay such as eelgrass beds and native oysters. Identifying important habitat and hotspots of productivity combined with active restoration are to be combined with increased marine ecosystem protection in key areas of the San Francisco Bay.