Exploring California’s Marine Protected Areas: Laguna Beach State Marine Reserve and State Marine Conservation Area

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Laguna Beach SMR and SMCA. Also shown are Crystal Cove SMCA to the north, and Dana Point SMCA to the south. (click to enlarge)

The idyllic shoreline of Laguna Beach is made up of rocky headlands with towering cliffs, sandy beaches and a myriad of tide pools teeming with life. It is also home to one of the largest coastal “no-take” marine protected areas (MPAs) in southern California. Located adjacent to a densely populated city, the area is a popular attraction for scuba diving, snorkeling, swimming, beach walking and sun bathing. These popular activites make Laguna Beach State Marine Reserve (SMR) and Laguna Beach State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA) two of the most visited MPAs in California’s statewide network.

Laguna Beach SMR and SMCA, along with 48 other MPAs along California’s southern coast, were established in 2012 to protect critical marine species and habitats, including intertidal tide pools Continue reading

Exploring California’s Marine Protected Areas: Van Damme State Marine Conservation Area

Located off the northern California coast just south of the town of Mendocino, Van Damme State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA) encompasses a small, protected bay sheltered from north winds and large ocean swell. The bay is popular with freedivers, kayakers, scuba divers, and recreational anglers. Continue reading

Exploring California’s Marine Protected Areas: Point Arena State Marine Reserve and State Marine Conservation Area

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Point Arena Lighthouse and Point Arena State Marine Reserve   photo by R. Win

Occasionally warm and sunny, but more often cool and shrouded in a layer of fog, the Point Arena headland is a uniquely beautiful and ecologically important site on California’s northern coast. Located five miles north of its namesake town and 150 miles north of San Francisco, the waters off Point Arena are part of a major upwelling zone Continue reading

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