CalOceans News


Find an Underwater Parks Day event near you!

January 14th, 2014

On Saturday, January 16, California will celebrate the 6th annual
Underwater Parks Day. The event, created by south coast aquaria in 2008, was designed to educate Californians about marine protected  areas--state parks located in the ocean. These undersea refuges protect  sensitive sea life and habitats at spectacular places like the Farallon  Islands, Point Reyes, Piedras Blancas, and La Jolla.

It's a great day to head to your local beach, aquarium or coastal park for family-friendly activities. Highlights planned for Saturday include touch-and-feel animal exhibits, a scavenger hunt, arts and crafts tables where kids can make their own otter puppets, and guided tours.

To find an event near you, check the full list here.

New Video: How do you MPA?

December 12th, 2013

Check out Ocean Conservancy's new video, How do you MPA?:

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Central Coast Marine Protected Areas Provide New Info to State Scientists

February 22nd, 2013

Hundreds of volunteers, fishermen and scientists studying underwater park health & use

MONTEREY  – For five years, 29 marine protected areas (MPAs) have dotted California’s central coast. Early monitoring of the MPAs, created in response to declining ocean health, suggest the protected areas are on track, with some fish species including cabezon, lingcod and black rockfish increasing in relative abundance in marine reserves compared to waters outside the boundaries. The MPA monitoring program has been a huge collective effort, as divers and fishermen teamed up with scientists to create a baseline of ecological health for the region’s coastal waters against which future MPA performance can be measured.

Hundreds of resource managers, policy makers, stakeholders, scientists and conservationists are gathering for the State of the California Central Coast symposium on Feb. 27 – 29 in Monterey. They’ll learn about new findings from monitoring efforts and discuss perspectives on marine protected area governance and management. The event will be kicked off by Carmel City Mayor Jason Burnett and California Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird. To view the symposium agenda go here.

The groups below have spearheaded hands-on learning and monitoring, and will be presenting their findings at the symposium. Their contact information has been provided where applicable. For more information and press passes to the symposium contact Brendan McLaughlin at or via cell at 415-200-6148. For live coverage during the symposium, follow @thepacificocean on Twitter and the hashtag #CalifMPAs.

Through Reef Check, researchers and citizen-scientists SCUBA dive to survey shallow and deep rocky habitats, kelp forests, rocky shores, estuaries, beaches and other key ecosystems along the central coast. They monitor ecologically and economically important species of fishes and invertebrates, and human activities including fishing and recreational use.
Contact: Jan Freiwald at 831-345-8167 or
Symposium presentation date: Wed, Feb. 27, 1:10 – 2:45pm

The California Collaborative Fisheries Research Program (CCFRP)
uses local charter boats and volunteer anglers to monitors four central coast MPAs. It provides scientific monitoring of these reserves in order to evaluate their effectiveness as a tool for conservation and fisheries management, as required by the state.
Symposium presentation date: Wed, Feb. 27 1:10 – 2:45pm

Citizen science efforts like MPA Watch have trained hundreds of volunteers and docents to monitor beach and coastal use in and around protected areas like Natural Bridges and Ano Nuevo. The information is used to inform enforcement and management agencies. 
Contact: Steve Shimek at 831-663-9460
Symposium presentation date: Thursday, February 28, 4pm

Volunteers in Save Our Shores’ Dockwalker program share information with boaters and fishermen about MPAs, and conduct ocean protection workshops in local schools. In turn, schools are making visits to the underwater parks part of their outdoor education, because in addition to enabling kids to watch wildlife in nature, many now feature full-color educational interpretive displays and docent programs. 
Contact: Laura Kasa at 831-462-5660 ext. 8
Symposium presentation date: Wednesday, Feb. 27, 4:00 – 4:30pm


The protected areas were created through the landmark Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) of 1999.
For more info about the central coast’s underwater parks, and photos for download go to
For live coverage during the symposium, follow @thepacificocean on Twitter. Or look for the hashtag #CalifMPAs.

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Underwater Parks Day 2013 - Saturday, January 19

January 13th, 2013

The first month of the year is perhaps the best time to experience California’s ocean at its finest – which is why the 5th Annual Underwater Parks Day on Saturday, January 19th is a great reason to hit the coast and enjoy a marine protected area.  To find an event near you, see the full schedule of events by region linked below.

It’s already been a busy month for California’s new network of over 100 underwater parks, which was completed just last December.  Grey whales are traveling south along the coast to lagoons in Baja, California where they will give birth to calves. Some preemies and their mothers are already showing up off the coast of Los Angeles and San Diego, delighting whale watchers.

Further north, in Piedras Blancas and Año Nuevo State Park's marine protected areas, male elephant seals are engaging in their spectacular, violent mating rituals, while females are giving birth to a new generation of pupsFriends of the Elephant Seal and Ano Nuevo State Park docents offer guided tours of the action to visitors, who should use extreme caution and approach seals only with the assistance of a guide.

Stewards of the states’ underwater parks have planned activities and celebrations throughout the California coast at state beaches, aquaria, and nature centers, which are perfect for kids and adults to enjoy a day surrounded by sea life and learn more about the benefits of protecting California’s prime ocean habitats. 

Southern California Events (San Diego to Santa Barbara)
Central California Events (Morro Bay to Santa Cruz)
Northern California Events (San Francisco to Arcata).


A Trifecta of Ocean Triumphs at the end of 2012

December 21st, 2012

In December, three major ocean protection wins came to life after years in the making and tireless efforts by ocean advocates.  Sea otter recovery efforts got a boost when the US Fish and Wildlife Service decided to scrap its program to relocate them out of their native habitat in southern California. President Obama announced a move to expand federal marine sanctuaries along the Northern California coast, permanently banning oil drilling. The newly protected area will more than double the Gulf of the Farallones and Cordell Bank national marine sanctuaries by 2,771 square miles. And the San Francisco Chronicle noted they’ll add to new state marine protected areas, providing a range of state-federal protection from Bodega Bay north to Point Arena in Mendocino County.

The third win? Californians celebrated the grand opening of 19 north coast Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and the completion of its statewide network, making the state a national leader in ocean protection. 

The Los Angeles Times’ Ken Weiss reported on the achievement in California's marine reserve network now complete. He noted that the Marine Life Protection Act in 1999 directed officials to model the network after a “familiar strategy on land — setting up parks and refuges to conserve wildlife. Michael Sutton, a California Fish and Game commissioner said:
“It's not rocket science. If you protect wildlife habitat and you don't kill too many, wildlife tends to do well. We've done that on land with the waterfowl population. Now, we've done it in the ocean for fish."

California Fish and Game Commissioner and lifelong recreational fisherman Richard B. Rogers told the Los Angeles Times that his work to establish the reserves was “the single most important thing I’ve done in life, other than marrying my wife and raising my five kids.” He supported the reserves for one reason:“I want to make sure my grandchildren have some fish to eat.”

The Los Angeles Times article was carried in scores of media outlets such as MSNBC. An Associated Press brief, California completes network of undersea sanctuaries, was carried by media outlets such as the Sacramento Bee and KCRA, and noted that “California's 848-square-mile marine reserve, the largest network of undersea sanctuaries in the continental United States, is now complete.” Public News Service radio also covered it.

Bill Lemos, a North Coast former schoolteacher and stakeholder member, wrote in a Santa Rosa Press Democrat op-ed, New era of coastal protection begins today, about how the community rallied around their concern for ocean health to make the new reserves a reality: “At a time when political divisiveness rules Washington, their willingness to set aside differences to create this remarkable achievement speaks volumes about the North Coast culture of getting a job done.”

In his op-ed in the Mendocino Beacon, InterTribal Sinkyone Wilderness Council Executive Director Hawk Rosales described the tribes’ involvement in the design of the MPAs that resulted in the continuance of traditional non-commercial tribal uses in the 13 State Marine Conservation Areas.

On Huffington Post, Francesca Koe with NRDC described some of the new MPAs and featured a vibrant slide show on the North Coast MPAs created by Resource Media and Ocean Conservancy.

Jennifer Savage with Ocean Conservancy reported from Mendocino in The Blog Aquatic’s California Celebrates 19 New Underwater Parks, Completes First Statewide Network in Nation. In New North Coast ‘Underwater Parks’ in Effect Today in the Lost Coast Output, she provided a real-time glimpse at those new - and rough - north coast reserves: “Today, Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012 is not the best day to visit one of the new North Coast marine protected areas. The waves are big (the 22 buoy is showing 14 feet at the moment), the wind is picking up (13 mph, gusts to 21 mph), and more rain is on the way (up to a quarter inch)…”

In An Ocean Legacy to Make Californians Proud, Karen Garrison with NRDC wrote of the long road in shaping the network, and looked ahead:
“The final piece of California’s marine protected area network will go into effect this month, but the story will continue. A Monitoring Enterprise is working with citizens, fishermen and scientists to study the impacts of these protected areas. Their research will help inform future policy.”

On the social media front, Upwell created this happy otter crowd-pleasing graphic to celebrate the news on Facebook.

For more information about the Marine Life Protection Act, and to view detailed maps, visit

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Statewide Network Complete!

December 19th, 2012

Enjoy this new slide show showcasing some of the amazing habitats protected by California's new marine protected areas--and some of the ways people are enjoying them.

CalOceans thanks all of the thousands of activists, scientists, fishermen, tribal leaders, and avid ocean lovers that made this tremendous achievement possible.

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California MPAs in Sunset Magazine!

August 30th, 2012

California's coast draws visitors from around the country and the world, and iconic areas like Point Reyes, Big Sur, and La Jolla are protected both above and below the water line, thanks to the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA), which established a series of underwater parks that extends protections from land to sea in many of the state's hotspots.

These underwater parks were featured in September's Sunset Magazine, which touted California's leadership in marine conservation, and suggested that the state's marine protected areas will likely be seen in 100 years as we view the creation of National Parks today--as a proud legacy that protects our shared natural heritage.

In Wake of Changing Ocean, Marine Reserves Increase Resilience

August 2nd, 2012

An exciting new study of pink abalone in Isla Natividad, Mexico sheds light on the ability of marine reserves to make the ocean more resilient to disasters.

Scientists from Stanford’s Hopkins Marine Station teamed up with the Mexican NGO Comunidad y Biodiversidad to study a patch of ocean that was hard hit by two large die-offs when hypoxic events created periods of low dissolved oxygen in the water.
They compared fished areas to nearby marine reserves, with startling results:

“The study revealed that after a mass mortality of marine life in the waters off Baja California, Mexico, egg production of pink abalones in the marine reserves increased 40 percent while being cut in half in fished areas…a significant amount of larvae spilled over into unprotected areas open to fishing, which helped them rebound more quickly.”

So, not only did the marine reserve help the recovery of abalone inside the reserve, it helped abalone outside the reserve as well. Marine reserves provide a refuge for species to grow larger, and more abundant.  This proved crucial to the ability of the abalone population to recover from the die-off:

“Both the large size of the protected abalones and the population density were key to resilience,” noted (Stanford Professor Fiorenza) Micheli. “Marine reserves are vital to jumpstart the recovery of species following a mass mortality.”

While scientists have recommended marine reserves to communities looking to protect future reserves of fish, their ability to help ecosystems recover from disasters has been less well understood – which makes this study truly groundbreaking.


Top 10 MPA Dive Sites

July 12th, 2012

California’s marine protected areas (MPAs) are leading the way with the country’s first state-wide network of underwater parks. Along with significant environmental and economic benefits, the MPAs bring intangibles—like good, old-fashioned, underwater fun!

Ocean Conservancy spotlighted its Top Ten dive sites within the network—where to go and what creatures to look for amongst the flourishing kelp forests, coralline-encrusted boulders, and rocky ledges.

Thanks to the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA), some of the best areas for diving and snorkeling in the world can be found in these areas, which will thrive and replenish fish and other wildlife thanks to the unprecedented protection. Check out the giant sea bass in the Italian Gardens of Catalina Island, the bat rays at Landing Cove off of Anacapa, gorgonian sea fans at Laguna Beach, or leopard sharks at La Jolla Cove. Visit for more information.


California Adopts North Coast Marine Protected Areas & Creates Nation’s First Statewide Underwater Park System

June 8th, 2012

California made history June 6 when the Fish and Game Commission voted unanimously to adopt a network of marine protected areas for northern California. The new protections were designed by local fishermen, divers, tribes, business owners and conservationists. 
The vote marks the completion of the United States’ first statewide network of underwater parks, and a huge step toward long-term environmental and economic health for the coast. As Commissioner Richard Rogers put it: "We are poised to return California's marine resources to the sustainable abundance we all once enjoyed."
The Los Angeles Times called the new parks “the final link in the nation's first comprehensive statewide chain of marine sanctuaries.”

“We are going to reap the benefits of this for many years to come,” said Fish and Game Commission Vice President Michael Sutton, founding director of the Center for the Future of the Oceans at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Karen Garrison, co-director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's oceans program, told the Associated Press that "by safeguarding our iconic ocean places — and the rich web of life they support — these jewels of the coast will help revive depleted fish populations and draw people to the coast to enjoy our remarkable marine wildlife." 

Kaitilin Gaffney, Pacific program director for the Ocean Conservancy, told the Santa Cruz Sentinel, "the idea is that in the ocean, you get a synergistic effect…If you have Marine Protected Areas and they're spaced appropriately, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts."

The Lake County News called the decision “a major milestone” and quoted Arcata Assemblyman Wes Chesbro:  “It’s unanimous: We on the North Coast all support protecting our ocean fishery resources and we highly value sustainable commercial, recreational and traditional harvests.” 

AP quoted Priscilla Hunter of the InterTribal Sinkyone Wilderness Council, who noted that officials had come a long way in recognizing the concerns of Native Americans:  "The start of this process was very difficult and contentious ... but we have ended in a very positive place with a strong framework for future tribal consultation on important conservation and environmental issues."

Jen Savage with Ocean Conservancy told the Eureka Times Standard that the remarkable community buy-in of the project influenced the commission to adopt “everything as the stakeholders designed it.”   The underwater parks protect California’s most iconic ocean areas, including La Jolla, the Big Sur Coast, and Point Reyes. The North coast additions include spectacular areas along California’s famously beautiful and remote Lost Coast.

On the Central Coast, Cambria recreational fisherman Jim Webb told Public News Service radio he's already seeing greater fish populations and more economic opportunities from increased tourism as a result of the MPAs he played a role in establishing. He praised the new network.  "I personally think it's a tribute to California that they're leading the charge in this regard, perhaps leading the whole nation, if not the world, in getting this network implemented."

Further north, Cindy Walter, owner of Passionfish Restaurant in Pacific Grove, told the Santa Cruz Sentinel that because the local restaurant industry relies on fresh fish and beautiful coastlines, "these new marine protections are money in the bank for California's tourism industry and restaurant owners like me,"

For more information about the Marine Life Protection Act, visit  A map of the new statewide marine protected area network can be found here.

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