Management Update for Southern California Marine Protected Areas

On April 27, 2017, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) presented our five-year management review regarding the south coast marine protected areas (MPAs) alongside the State of the California South Coast report to the California Fish and Game Commission. At the Commission meeting, CDFW recommended that no regulatory changes be made at this time, given that baseline monitoring data can only provide a characterization of conditions and not an assessment of MPA efficacy. However, recommendations to help effectively manage and to facilitate adaptive management of the network of MPAs based on lessons learned from baseline monitoring were provided.

Selected management recommendations*:

Monitoring and Research

  • Support a partnership-based approach to leverage cost-effective/sustainable long-term monitoring practices.

Enforcement and Compliance

  • Develop a cost-effective centralized record management system to store, organize, and track citation information (such as verbal warnings, citations, type/number of fish seized, time spent patrolling, etc.) within CDFW and enforcement partner agencies.

Outreach and Education

  • Coordinate consistent and accurate messaging about MPA regulations to improve public awareness and compliance (such as the installation of MPA-specific signs statewide).

Policy and Permitting

  • Finalize the ecological impact assessment tool with the Ocean Protection Council’s Scientific Advisory team in order to identify potential cumulative research impacts within MPAs prior to issuing a scientific collecting permit.

Southern California Marine Protected Areas

When California’s MPAs were implemented (central coast 2007, north central coast 2010, south coast and north coast 2012) each region entered Phase 1 of the MPA Monitoring Program. Phase 1, regional baseline monitoring, is funded through a $16 million voter-approved investment (Proposition 84, 2006), with $4 million allotted per region. Baseline monitoring provides a characterization of marine species, marine habitats, and socioeconomic conditions both inside and outside MPAs around the time of MPA implementation. Over time, managers, policy makers, and scientists can compare ongoing conditions to the baseline data to make adaptive management recommendations (as needed) regarding the statewide network or individual MPAs.

With the submission of CDFW’s 5-year management recommendations for the south coast MPAs to the Commission completed, Phase 1 of the MPA Monitoring Program in the south coast is finalized. The south coast is now the third region to finish Phase 1 of the MPA Monitoring Program, with the central coast completed in 2013, and the north central coast completed in 2016. The final region, the north coast, is anticipated to wrap up in spring of 2018. The three regions that have completed Phase 1 are now transitioning to Phase 2 – long-term, statewide monitoring.

A statewide MPA Monitoring Action Plan is currently in development. This plan is anticipated to be completed in 2018, and once approved will guide future spending for Phase 2, which has an annual allotment of $2.5 million for statewide monitoring.

For a glimpse of the marine life that resides within Southern California MPAs, watch this video!

*A full list of management recommendations can be found within CDFW’s memo to the Commission.

post by Amanda Van Diggelen, CDFW Environmental Scientist