Northern Channel Islands Marine Protected Areas Join Growing Network of Global Ocean Refuges

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The Marine Conservation Institute and its international science council has recognized the Northern Channel Islands marine protected areas (MPAs) off the coast of Santa Barbara, California as an outstanding MPA with a Blue Park designation. A total of 16 MPAs worldwide have earned the prestigious Blue Park Award, indicating they meet the highest science-based standards for marine life protection and management. The award was announced on October 24, 2019 at the Our Ocean Conference in Oslo, Norway.

This Blue Park Award recognizes the outstanding efforts by state and federal managers with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, the National Park Service, and other partners who work together to protect the spectacular Northern Channel Islands marine ecosystem.

“The MPAs around the Northern Channel Islands are some of the oldest in California’s comprehensive statewide network,“ said Becky Ota, California Department of Fish and Wildlife Marine Habitat Conservation Program Manager. “The California Department of Fish and Wildlife is proud of our collaborative conservation accomplishments both at the Channel Islands and throughout California, and we are continuing to work together with our state, federal and community partners to adaptively manage California’s 124 MPAs.”

Northern Channel Islands
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CDFW map

The Northern Channel Islands MPAs collectively cover 1,469 square miles (3,804 square kilometers). Bathed by the California Current and a regional upwelling of deep, cold, nutrient-rich water, the region hosts abundant fish assemblages of small schooling species like anchovies and sardines which in turn feed larger, open water fish and bottom fish.

“Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary protects one of America’s most treasured marine environments for current and future generations to use and enjoy,” said Chris Mobley, Superintendent of Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. “We are extremely proud to receive this award in recognition of our collaboration with partners and stakeholders to promote long-term marine conservation.”

The MPAs protect several unique ecosystems, including giant kelp forests and deep coral gardens. Over 5,000 species of invertebrates, marine mammals like seals and sea lions, large, open-water fish, small schooling fish, and seabirds all live here. Many of the animals that can be found in the MPAs are also protected endangered species, such as the blue whale, orca, olive ridley sea turtle, and fur seal.

“Our goal is to recognize those MPAs like the Northern Channel Islands that deliver real results for marine life conservation and inspire others around the world to strongly protect 30 percent of the ocean’s most important places by 2030,” said Dr. Lance Morgan, President of Marine Conservation Institute. “We hope that Blue Park recognition of the Northern Channel Islands MPAs provides a shining example of regional marine conservation efforts and inspires others to follow the same path to protect our oceans for generations to come.”

For more information about the Northern Channel Islands MPAs and the other five 2019 Blue Park Award winners, please visit

post by CDFW Marine Region Staff