Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Marine Life Protection Act or MLPA?
This ground-breaking law was passed by the California legislature in 1999. The goal of the MLPA is to create a network of marine protected areas based on science and according to clear, conservation-based goals. The MLPA is protecting the ocean in the same way our national and state parks protect land.

Just like past visionaries who saw the need for setting aside pristine pieces of land for future preservation, California is now working to set aside beautiful ocean habitat and resources for a healthy tomorrow.

How can I get involved?
The MLPA process has many opportunities for the public to get involved, giving you a chance to voice your opinion on which ocean areas should be protected. There are three main groups involved in the decision-making process: the Regional Stakeholders Group (RSG), the Blue Ribbon Task Force (BRTF), and the California Fish and Game Commission (FGC). 

Each of these groups holds meetings and allocates time for public comment to make sure you have a chance to talk. Click here for the next meeting.  If you're unable to attend a meeting, click here to send a letter or email.  

By joining our email list, we will keep you informed of upcoming events in your area.  

How is the California coast divided into areas?
To plan a statewide network of MPAs, California's coast was divided into four distinct geographic regions (along with a fifth region - San Francisco Bay). Each region has regional stakeholders and scientists involved who are familiar with and know the local ocean and coastal habitat. The four geographic regions are the north coast (from the Oregon Border to Alder Creek, north of Point Arena), the north central coast (from Alder Creek to Ano Nuevo), the central coast (Ano Nuevo to Point Conception) and the south coast (Point Conception to the Mexican border). 

What is a marine protected area?
Marine protected areas (MPAs) are protected spaces set aside in the ocean, just like parks are set aside on land. MPAs come in all shapes and sizes, but are most effective when protecting areas rich in habitat. 

What is a marine reserve? 
A marine reserve is a marine protected area that provides the highest level of protection for marine life. Marine reserves are the "look, pass through, but don't touch or take anything" marine protected areas. Marine reserves still allow scientific surveys of the area, as well as surfing, swimming, "just look" diving and boating.

What does scientific research say about marine reserves? 
Scientists have studied the performance of 124 marine reserves of many different sizes in a variety of habitats. A comprehensive review of marine reserves reveals that most well-regulated marine reserves result in large, rapid and long-lasting increases in population, number of species, and reproductive output of marine animals and plants.  The review found that the average weight of all animals and plants studied is more than four times larger in reserves than in unprotected areas. 

Why do marine reserves work? 
Protection from fishing allows animals in reserves to survive longer and grow larger.  Also, habitats are protected from anchors and fishing gear, so they can sustain the plants and animals that rely on them. Fully protected marine reserves are currently the only marine management tool that promotes the recovery of entire ecosystems, not just specific species. 

Why does fish size matter? 
Large fish and invertebrates can produce enormous numbers of offspring ensuring future generations. Take for example the vermillion rockfish, a very sleek orange colored fish. A vermillion rockfish that weighs close to two pounds produces about 150,000 baby fishes while a vermillion rockfish weighing 7.5 pounds produces 1.7 MILLION baby fishes. That's a huge difference!  Big fish are key to making sure marine life populations remain healthy and stable.

What are the benefits of marine reserves in California? 
Marine reserves protect California's priceless coastal habitats by providing the highest level of protection leading to proven results.  

In a scientific survey of 124 reserves worldwide, scientists found that fish are larger, more abundant, and more diverse within marine reserves.  Marine reserves allow fish, mammals, and other marine life to breed, feed, and succeed without human interference, providing refuges where ocean life recovers and flourishes for us and future generations to enjoy. 

Why aren't currenet fisheries regulations sufficient for ocean protection? 
Previously, if a species was in decline, protections were placed on that particular species, but not the food and habitat needed for that species? survival.  Marine protected areas and especially marine reserves consider the bigger picture and ensure that all levels of the food chain receive protection by protecting the entire ecosystem.  

How can marine reserves help fisheries if fishermen can't fish in these areas? 
Animals living inside marine reserves help replenish fish populations outside their borders because larvae disperse in ocean currents in juvenile stages, spilling over into unprotected areas. It's no coincidence that the majority of record-breaking game fish in Florida are caught just outside the marine reserve at Merritt Island.