The Science

Marine Protected Areas

Marine protected areas (MPAs) are protected spaces set aside in the ocean, or "underwater parks," similar to parks on land. MPAs come in all shapes and sizes, but are most effective when protecting areas rich in habitat.  Take the above example -- the top photograph shows a no take marine protected area in Fiji, while the bottom photography shows a nearby area where fishing is permitted.

Why marine protected areas are needed

Real problems lurk below the ocean's surface along California's coast. For example:

• White abalone are on the verge of extinction
• Federal regulators issued emergency Rockfish closures in 2002
• Fish size declined 45% along the West Coast in the last 21 years
• 75% of California's kelp forests have disappeared since the 1960s
• 90% of the big fish that existed in the 1950s are gone

California's ocean is in trouble - and MPAs can help solve current problems; and safeguard against future problems like global warming and ocean acidification.

The science is clear: marine protected areas work! 

MPAs protect entire ecosystems. From sharks to seastars, every creature living in that space is protected. 

Marine reserves allow fish, mammals, and other marine life to breed,
feed, and succeed without human interference. Animals living inside
marine reserves also help replenish fish populations outside their
borders because the babies disperse in ocean currents, spilling over
into unprotected areas.

In PISCO's scientific survey of more than 100 reserves worldwide, scientists found:

• A 446% average increase in biomass of animals and plants
• A 166% average increase in number of plants or animals
• A 28% average increase in body size of animals
• A 21% average increase in animal and plant diversity
• A 1000% increase in of biomass and density of heavily fished species

Extensive scientific research demonstrates that MPAs, and especially
fully-protected marine reserves, can help bring back big fish and
restore habitats. 

At the Cabo Pulmo National Park, a no-take marine reserve in Baja California, results of a 10-year analysis showed a whopping 460 percent increase in biomass between 1999-2009. 

This video shows the abundant marine life inside the Cabo Pulmo National Park: