North Central Coast
Northern California's ocean is now protected in a new network of underwater state parks at Point Reyes Headlands, Bodega Head, the Farallon Islands, Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, and other ocean hot spots.
The new marine protected area network went into effect on May 1, 2010 - setting aside the region’s richest kelp forests, rocky reefs, and canyons to boost the health and productivity of the entire coastline. University and citizen scientists are monitoring the new protected areas to track their effectiveness.
The network includes 22 marine protected areas designed to protect the region’s most sensitive sea life and habitats while leaving almost 90 percent of the coast open to fishing.
CalOceans extends its congratulations and thanks to the stakeholders; scientists; policymakers; and concerned citizens that made this achievement possible.
These are just a few of the places protected in the new network of Marine Protected Areas:
Point Arena is one of the major upwelling zones along the West coast of the U.S., which means it is a source of nutrients for fish and wildlife. Kelp forests and rocky reefs shelter red abalone and make this a popular site for free divers. At Arena Rock, underwater caves host a highly diverse fish fauna that once included abundant populations of yelloweye and vermillion rockfish, lingcod and Giant Pacific Octopus. Manchester State Beach is the longest stretch of sandy beach north of Bodega Bay and visitors to Alder Creek or the Garcia River can watch pods of harbor porpoises at play.
Divers and fishermen head 90 miles north of San Francisco to the shoreline around Salt Point. Nearby Stump Beach has one of the only sandy beaches north of Jenner Beach and Fisk Mill offers stunning ocean views from Sentinel Rock, via a short hike through lush Bishop pine growth. Bull kelp thrives along this stretch of coastline and can grow up to ten inches per day.
The Sonoma coast is defined by long, sandy beaches extending for miles beneath overhanging rocky bluffs, peppered with natural arches and secluded coves. Beachgoers encounter giant green anemone and purple stars as they explore tidepools, while birders can spot godwits, willets and brown pelicans. Harbor seals lounge at Goat Rock and gray whales migrate through these waters from December to April. The Sonoma coast is also an angler's paradise, as rockfish, salmon and red abalone all call the offshore reefs and waters of the Sonoma coast home.
The Point Reyes peninsula hosts 45% of North American bird species and almost 18% of California's plant species, including 23 threatened and endangered species. From the eelgrass beds in Tomales Bay to the Tule elk grazing the headlands, it's clear that Point Reyes is a wildland habitat like no other in California. Through a haze of salty fog, visitors can see, hear, smell and even feel the thunderous ocean breakers washing over long sandy beaches and crashing into rocky cliffs. This coastal habitat is home to humpback and gray whales, seals, sea lions, and elephant seals.
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- One-Year Anniversary for North Central Coast Marine Parks
- Press Release: Compromise Marine Protected Area Plan Approved for North Central Coast (pdf)
- User Map of North Central Coast MPAs and GPS Coordinates (pdf)
- Friends of Fitzgerald Marine Reserve
- Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary
- Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary
- California MPAs - Educational Resources
- Download our marine life coloring book (pdf)