Exploring California’s Marine Protected Areas: Portuguese Ledge State Marine Conservation Area

Portuguese Ledge State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA) lies four miles offshore of the Monterey peninsula in central California. The SMCA was established following the passage of the Marine Life Protection Act in 1999, which mandated the redesign of California’s marine protected area (MPA) system into a cohesive network. Currently, only 14 of the 124 state MPAs protect deepwater, submarine canyon habitat; Portuguese Ledge SMCA was one of the first such MPAs to be established. Continue reading

Exploring California’s Marine Protected Areas: Bolsa Chica Wetlands

Bolsa Chica wetlands
Venture onto the 400-ft. walkway to view the Bolsa Chica Wetlands from the south entrance.  CDFW photo by S. Hubbard

One of the last remaining wetland ecosystems in Southern California, the Bolsa Chica Wetlands form the largest saltwater marsh south of Point Conception, Santa Barbara County. Approximately 1,300 acres in size with an intricate five-mile trail system, the wetlands are home to more than 65 species of fish, birds, invertebrates, and mammals Continue reading

Exploring California’s Marine Protected Areas: Año Nuevo State Marine Reserve

All throughout elementary school, junior high, and high school, one of my favorite activities was the class field trip. No matter where we were going, I was excited to visit somewhere new. On the central California coast, students often visit the sandy beaches of Año Nuevo – a field trip location I wasn’t fortunate enough to visit until I had grown up, but it was worth the wait. Continue reading

Exploring California’s Marine Protected Areas: Russian River State Marine Recreational Management Area, and Russian River State Marine Conservation Area

View of the Pacific Ocean from the Russian River Estuary. “Goat Rock and the Russian River” by W. Hsieh, CC BY  2.0

You sometimes see the phrase “All drains lead to the ocean” painted on the pavement near drainage grates in city streets, but this saying also holds true for watersheds across California. The Russian River is no exception. The river’s headwaters are located near the inland city of Willits in Mendocino County, where it begins its meandering, 110-mile journey through oak hills, valleys filled with vineyards, urban centers, and redwoods, eventually making its way to a foggy ocean outlet at Jenner. Continue reading

Exploring California’s Marine Protected Areas: South Humboldt Bay State Marine Recreational Management Area (Part Two)

staghorn sculpins
Pacific staghorn sculpins (Leptocottus armatus). The species name armatus is Greek for “armed,” referring to the antler-like spines on the fish’s gill covers. photo by F. Shaughnessy

This is Part Two of a special installment of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife series, Exploring California’s Marine Protected Areas. Part One of the installment investigated what makes this bit of estuary special and the protections that are in place to safeguard it. This final installment takes an inside look at recent research documenting the current state of the marine recreational management area. Continue reading