The Ocean

Welcoming in California’s new marine parks

December 20, 2012

Anyone who loves the California coast — that would be everyone, right? — should be toasting this week’s big news.

You’ll probably never see an oil derrick off the Sonoma shoreline or anywhere else from Bodega Bay to Point Arena, thanks to the Obama administration’s plans to more than double the size of two Northern California national marine sanctuaries.

Instead you may see a lot more marine life now that the state’s 19 marine protected areas have gone into effect as of Wednesday, after more than a decade of planning.

The two overlaying marine zones — state and federal — essentially create underwater parks along California’s coast. Like parks on land, the aim is to protect the ecosystem by restricting certain types of human activities such as oil drilling, sewage discharge, and in some cases commercial fishing.

Two national marine sanctuaries — the Gulf of the Farallones and Cordell Bank — would expand 2,771 square miles to the border of Mendocino County if the Obama plans clear regulatory hurdles, which they’re expected to do.

Meanwhile, California’s new marine protection areas, the outcome of the 1999 Marine Life Protection Act, set up specific regulations that govern each spot’s unique needs, from a ecological and cultural standpoint.

For example, in the north coast region, protected areas were set up to avoid traditional Native American fishing sites or provided for continued traditional use. At the newly designated Bodega Head Marine Conservation Area, fishing and harvesting is banned except for dungeness crab and a list of pelagic finfish that include sardine, herring, mackerel, and others. South of Bodega, the Point Reyes State Marine Reserve gets the highest level of protection with a ban on the take of any living marine resource.

So get to know your new state marine protected areas. North Central California’s guide is available here.



About the Author

Alison Hawkes was a Bay Nature editor from 2011-2017. Before Bay Nature she worked in journalism for more than a decade as a former newspaper reporter turned radio producer turned web editor with each rendition bringing her closer to her dream of covering environmental issues. She co-founded Way Out West, a site dedicated to covering Bay Area environmental news.