On June 6, 2012, the California Department of Fish and Game adopted a network of marine protected areas in the North Coast study region, spanning from Alder Creek near Point Arena in Mendocino County north to the California-Oregon border. This marks the end of a lengthy, three year public planning process to implement California’s Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) in this region. The North Coast is the fourth of five MLPA study regions to undergo this regulatory process, completing California’s coastal marine protected area network envisioned by the MLPA and leaving waters within the San Francisco Bay as the final region to complete the process.
The Department of Fish and Game adopted the unified proposal submitted by the region’s blue ribbon task force and created through numerous public meetings and workshops involving regional stakeholders, the MLPA initiative staff, the Department of Fish and Game, a science advisory team, and interested members of the public, including tribal members, sport and commercial fishermen, conservationists, and other interested groups and members of the public. Significantly, the Department of Fish and Game adopted this unified proposal unchanged, a first for the department.
The adopted proposal includes marine protected areas that cover approximately 137 square miles, or thirteen percent of California coastal waters included in the North Coast study region. Six state marine reserves, which prohibit both recreational and commercial take, thirteen state marine conservation areas, which allow limited recreational and commercial take, and one state marine recreational management area, prohibiting commercial but allowing limited recreational take are included, along with seven special closure areas. These marine protected areas are expected to go into effect by early 2013. Additional information, including a regional map and the terms and details of each protected area, is available on the Department of Fish and Game’s website.
California’s Marine Life Protection Act was enacted in 1999 as a statutory mandate requiring California marine protected areas to be redesigned based on the best available science and input from regional stakeholders to create a statewide network of marine protected areas with identifiable goals and objectives.