Sonoma Marine Protected Area Collaborative: Connecting Land and Sea

Traveling Tidepool of the Sonoma MPA collaborative
The Sonoma MPA Collaborative and Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods bring tidepools to the redwood forest with their Mobile Marine Van. Volunteers teach visitors about the important connections between land and sea 
photo by M. Luna

Sonoma County offers some of California’s most iconic landscapes, from towering redwood trees to rolling hills blanketed by vineyards. The Sonoma coast is no exception, with sweeping views of crashing waves that shape the offshore, rocky sea stacks and mossy forests that extend nearly down to the water’s edge. There are 10 state marine protected areas (MPAs) along Sonoma’s coast that are a part of a larger statewide network of 124 MPAs, managed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). With such an extensive MPA Network, CDFW utilizes many partnerships to enhance network management activities. Among these core partners is a grassroots  organization called the MPA Collaborative Network, made up of 14 localized stakeholder groups individually known as Collaboratives.

The Sonoma MPA Collaborative helps steward the MPAs located along the Sonoma County coast. Co-led by Michele Luna, executive director of Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods and Suzanne Olyarnik, director of the Bodega Marine Reserve at UC Davis’s Bodega Marine Lab, the Sonoma MPA Collaborative provides a local voice in MPA management for county residents.

“Through the Sonoma MPA Collaborative, we are able to connect the many people who are deeply linked to Sonoma’s ocean resources,” says Luna. “By engaging Sonoma’s diverse marine users, from local tribes and the fishing community, to researchers studying the MPAs near the marine lab, the Collaborative is able to spread the mission of our local MPAs and the broader Network,” adds Olyarnik.

To reach a wider audience, the Collaborative produced and distributed four videos online about Sonoma County’s connections to MPAs and the coast. The series of videos highlight why we need MPAs, the intersection of the fishing community and MPAs, the tidepool environment and tide-pooling etiquette, and a Tribal Traditions video co-created with the Kashia Band of Pomo Indians. The Tribal Traditions video was submitted and accepted as an official selection of the 2020 Wild and Scenic Film Festival. Over 160 people attended the festival screening, which was followed by a Q & A session with tribal members and the film’s director. Altogether, the videos have received over 5,000 views!

Sonoma Collab mini ROV training
Sonoma County Collaborative members test pilot their Trident mini-ROVs in Russian River State Marine Recreational Management Area
photo by N. Palma

Can’t make it out to the coast to experience the MPAs first-hand? Let the Sonoma MPA Collaborative bring the coast to you! As a core part of the Collaborative’s MPA outreach activities, Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods members travel in the organization’s Mobile Marine Van to many of the local festivals, from fishermen’s gatherings to art and wine events, throughout the year. Festival goers can learn about MPAs and experience the tidepools at a portable tidepool touch table. Volunteers show curious onlookers real live sea stars, seaweeds, crabs, and other ocean dwellers that live in MPAs.

The Sonoma MPA Collaborative plans to continue to expand their MPA outreach activities through multiple venues. With the Fort Ross Conservancy taking the lead, they will produce an animated MPA video, set for release in 2021. Collaborative members have been exploring their local estuary MPAs with Trident mini-ROVs, observing eelgrass beds, and are thinking of ways to share this video footage with partners. They are also working closely with local State Parks interpreters to develop educational materials to distribute to local nature centers that will focus on the importance of MPAs.Sonoma MPA Collaborative Photo

Anyone is welcome to join an MPA Collaborative, attend meetings, and help with projects. MPA Collaboratives are always looking to expand their membership and increase stakeholder representation. If you’d like to get involved, please find an MPA Collaborative near you and reach out to the co-chairs to join the mailing list and ask about their next meeting.

MPA Collaborative Network logoThis article is part of a series featuring California MPA Collaboratives. The first two articles, produced in PDF format, are found here.


Post by Sara Worden, CDFW Environmental Scientist 

Read archived MPA News and newsletter articles for more stories and information about California’s marine protected areas!