Twenty-one marine protected areas (MPAs) adopted last year by the California Fish and Game Commission took effect May 1, 2010 along California’s north-central coast. The new regulations are being implemented as part of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA), which requires that California reexamine and redesign its system of MPAs with the goal of increasing its effectiveness at protecting the states marine life and habitats, marine ecosystems and marine natural heritage.

Regulations for the north-central coast MPAs, between Alder Creek, near Point Arena in Mendocino County, and Pigeon Point in San Mateo County, were adopted by the commission in August 2009 and approved by the Office of Administrative Law in April 2010.

In addition to the 21 MPAs, the new regulations include three state marine recreational management areas (SMRMAs) and six special closures, in total covering approximately 153 square miles (20.1 percent) of state waters in the study region. Approximately 86 square miles (11 percent) are designated as “no take” state marine reserves, while the remaining areas have different take allowances providing varying levels of protection.

Specific details about each MPA, SMRMA and special closure are available at

Statewide there are five MLPA study regions; the north-central coast study region was the second to complete the MPA planning process. As mandated by the MLPA, the north-central coast planning process (2007-2009) began by examining all existing MPAs within the study region and ultimately led to redesigning them into a new suite of MPAs. The MPAs for the north-central coast will become part of a statewide network of MPAs once planning in all study regions is complete.

The north-central coast MPAs were designed through a collaborative public process in which 45 members of a regional stakeholder group worked closely with a science advisory team, a blue ribbon task force, the California Department of Fish and Game, and MLPA Initiative staff and contractors to develop a set of MPA recommendations.  

More information about the north-central coast MPAs can be found on the MLPA Web site at