Marine Protected Area Updates


Monitoring the MPAs as a network

California's MPAs are in the process of transitioning from regional baseline monitoring, to a long-term monitoring design that treats 124 MPAs as an integrated network. Learn more about the partners, components, and investments in the Statewide MPA Monitoring Program here!


MPA Monitoring and the Refugio Oil Spill

MPA monitoring has built a community of people responding to the spill and a detailed reference of conditions beforehand. Continued monitoring is key to tracking the area’s recovery. Click here to learn more.

Setting the Stage for MPAs


A new science-based network of MPAs

In 2012, the final regional MPA network took effect, completing a statewide network of 124 MPAs across four coastal regions of the state. Citizens, scientists, managers and policy experts participated in a unique, collaborative and science-based effort to design and implement these MPAs. The public process set the stage for a community of participants to stay informed and engaged in the implementation, scientific monitoring and adaptive management of the state’s MPAs.

Read more about opportunities to get involved through County Collaboratives


Taking the pulse of California’s ocean

Planning is just the first chapter: scientific monitoring is essential to evaluate the effects of MPAs and inform ocean management. California has embarked on a novel and cost-effective public-private partnership that has developed a framework for MPA monitoring designed to ‘take the pulse’ of ocean ecosystems and to evaluate the effectiveness of MPA management. 

Once the MPAs are in the water, the monitoring effort begins. The first step is to establish a benchmark of ocean conditions and human activities, against which future changes can be measured. California’s investment of $16 million in MPA monitoring is securing an assessment of the ecological and socioeconomic conditions of  ocean ecosystems along the length of its coast.  This ‘benchmark’ – completed in the Central Coast and underway in the three remaining regions – provides a starting point for long-term MPA monitoring.

Strategically monitoring MPAs provides a mechanism to track changes in our ocean. MPAs are natural laboratories; they provide California the unprecedented opportunity to test and refine new models for fisheries management, and to learn about the effects of climate change and pollution so managers can adapt resource strategies accordingly.

Download a timeline diagram to keep abreast of key milestones in MPA monitoring


Partnership-based implementation

California now is turning its attention to the management of the statewide MPA network; identifying an interagency, public, and science -informed management and governance structure that provides for the best, most cost-effective, and fairest approach to understanding the efficacy of the network.

The OPC and its partners envision successful implementation of this bold new approach to be an MPA network with oversight and management that is durable, collaborative, and founded on a strong legal mandate. This would include strong governance, on-the-ground operations (including surveillance and enforcement, monitoring and evaluation, and outreach and education), long-term sustainable financing, and a constituency that supports and understands the ecological and economic value of these protected areas. 

Read more in the draft California Collaborative Approach: Marine Protected Areas Partnership Plan


An innovative monitoring approach

With partnerships as a key principle, California has undertaken an innovative and cost-effective approach to monitoring:

  • Creating a new framework to assess performance: California has adopted a new framework for monitoring - one that assesses the ‘performance’ of MPA networks by measuring ‘the pulse points’ of ecosystems and answering key strategically selected questions needed to support management decisions of state and federal agencies. Download a guide to the monitoring framework

  • Empowering communities with science: Beyond the traditional institutions of science lies a tremendous capacity on the part of fishermen, wildlife volunteers and citizens. A new citizen science initiative is fostering a community engaged in MPA monitoring and stewardship, and building understanding of the approaches and organizational arrangements that can promote enduring partnerships for ongoing monitoring. Read more about citizen science in MPA monitoring

  • Serving decision-makers across the spectrum: A healthy ocean is a priority for the state, and is a driver of California’s vibrant economy.  Ocean health matters across decision-making contexts, and MPA monitoring is being designed to deliver useful information for fisheries, water quality management, and climate adaptation. Read more about the ocean health state priority