The Golden Gate MPA Collaborative and the San Francisco Bay

Shark Stewards is a leading partner of the Golden Gate Marine Protected Area Collaborative Network, whose mission is to 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. The MPA Watch program is reaching coastal residents and visitors, providing training to collect observations on human use and interactions inside our MPAs.  


Become an MPA Ambassador- take the online training

Part of a statewide network, our consortium includes State Parks, US Fish and Wildlife Service at the Farallon Islands, the Point Reyes National Seashore, California Academy of Sciences, NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries, West Marin Environmental Action Committee and NGOS, San Francisco State University’s Estuarine and Ocean Science (formerly Romberg Tiburon Center), the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary and Association, the Seabird Protection Network, along with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The Golden Gate Collaborative is co- chaired by Shark Steward’s David McGuire and Bay Institute’s Brian Baird.

This project is supported by a grant from the Ocean Protection Council, and individual donations.

Download a toolkit and other MPA educational materials from the California MPAS website and learn about marine protected areas.

 Download the Golden Gate MPA Brochure.

Golden Gate MPA Brochure

Our Ambassadors are divided into On-Shore and Off-Shore components is developing tools to bring to stakeholders.  Specialized materials are being developed targeting fishermen and public at the South East Farallon Island, Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, Duxbury Reef and Point Reyes.

On shore teams will help provide training to educators, docents and others who are interacting along the coastline (eg MPA Watch, Beach Watch and LIMPETS programs).  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 include charter boat captains and whale watch vessels who engage with the public near the marine protected areas off shore.  

Public workshops will be held for the Bay Area stakeholders in summer and fall and signage is now installed in key Bay area marinas where small boat fishermen launch.

California State Marine Protected Areas

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.


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).

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 include 10 SMRs, 12 SMCAs, and 3 SMRMAs. The MPAs cover 20% of state waters, with 11% being no-take state marine reserves.

North Central Coast Map
(1.1M JPEG file)

Support our goals of bringing the Marine  Protected Areas into the San Francisco Bay.

The Bay Deserves Our Protection

The San Francisco Bay is an important and complex ecological system whose influence extends from the Sierra 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.

The Shark Sanctuary is a multi  faceted ecosystem protection approach using sharks as a symbol for the health of the entire bay, from the Delta to the Golden Gate Bridge.  

Stakeholders- to participate or learn more click here to contact us .