MLMA Master Plan Appendix D. Marine Protected Areas and Fisheries Management

This appendix provides an overview of the different types of MPAs in California and the various ways in which they can be used as a tool to meet the management goals of the MLMA. As with the other appendices, it is anticipated this overview will continue to be expanded and refined as part of Master Plan implementation so it can serve as an effective resource to managers and stakeholders.

The MLPA was adopted in 1999 and mandated the state to reexamine the array of existing state MPAs and redesign them as an interconnected network. Its goal was to enhance the effectiveness of MPAs in protecting the state’s marine life, habitats, and ecosystems (§2853). Through an extensive, collaborative, and unique public planning process, California implemented a network of MPAs across four coastal regions from 2004 to 2012 (CDFW 2016a). Operating within a collaborative statewide MPA Management Program, the Commission is the primary regulatory authority for California’s MPA network, the Department is the primary managing agency, and the Ocean Protection Council (OPC)(opens in new tab) is the entity responsible for the direction of the state’s MPA policy. The MLPA has six goals, which informed MPA design, and which now inform adaptive management of the statewide MPA network (§2853). While the primary MLPA goals are to protect biodiversity, habitats, and the integrity of marine ecosystems, the MLPA goals and MPA network also have implications for the management of fisheries. In that regard, California’s MPA network presents both opportunities and challenges for fishery management.

While MPAs can help protect habitat and diversity as discussed in Chapter 6 and Appendix N (also see CDFW 2016a), this appendix is primarily about the relevance of MPAs for meeting the fisheries sustainability objectives of the MLMA. While the information in this appendix focuses on the MPAs created through the MLPA process, it is important to note that there are other spatial closures created for fishery management purposes under separate state and federal authority (such as the RCAs, state trawl closures, the Cowcod Conservation Area, and Essential Fish Habitat closures).

Poster with satellite imagery, map of California MPA locations, and photographs and descriptions of marine habitat protected within MPAs.
This interpretive poster provides an introduction to the California MPA Network. It features satellite imagery with photographs and descriptions of marine habitat protected within MPAs. View full-size poster (JPG)(opens in new tab) (CDFW image)

Types of Marine Protected Areas in California

Following the MLPA redesign and siting process, California now has 124 MPAs encompassing 852 square miles, or approximately 16% of state waters. The six goals of the MLPA recognize the importance of protecting marine resources for various purposes, and therefore include multiple types of Marine Managed Areas (MMAs) to achieve these distinct goals (California Public Resources Code §36600-36900). MPAs are a subset of MMAs (however throughout this document the more common term MPA is used as an umbrella term to refer to all types of protected areas) and include three MPA designations: State Marine Reserve (SMR), State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA), and State Marine Park (SMP); and one MMA classification: State Marine Recreational Management Area (SMRMA). Table D1 describes the different kinds of protected areas designated under the MLPA, the kind of protection they offer, and the amount of area protected in each designation. There are two designations for no-take MPAs, which collectively cover approximately 9.6% of state waters (about 9.0% in SMRs and 0.6% in no-take SMCAs). The remaining designations, SMCAs, SMCA/SMP, and SMRMAs, cover approximately 6.5% of California’s state waters and allow multiple uses including limited specific types of take. A special closure is not an MPA, but is a relatively small, discrete marine area that protects nesting and roosting seabirds and marine mammals from disturbance by restricting seasonal or year-round access, and further contributing to the goals of the MLPA (CDFW 2016a). The California State Parks and Recreation establish SMPs through a separate process outside the MLPA. Therefore, SMPs are not included in the current MPA Network.

Much of the global research on the benefits of MPAs to fisheries, as well as the use of MPAs as reference areas, assumes that MPAs are large, well enforced, and completely no-take (Halpern and Warner 2002; Hastings and Botsford 2003; Lester et al. 2009). There is limited information on the benefits of limited-take MPAs compared to no-take MPAs (Lester and Halpern 2008; Coleman et al. 2013; Kelaher et al. 2014). For this reason, it is important to consider the type of MPA when assessing the impacts on nearby fisheries. Approximately 40% of California’s MPA area (or about 6.5% of state waters) is limited in take, which provides a unique opportunity to build scientific knowledge about the effects of different types of MPAs (CDFW 2016a).

Table D1. Marine Protected Area designations in California state waters (CDFW 2016a, CDFW 2016c).
Type Name Summary Number Area protected (square miles)
No-take State Marine Reserve • Prohibits all take and consumptive use (commercial and recreational, living or geologic). 49 474.7
• Scientific take may be allowed under a Scientific Collection Permit.
• Non-consumptive uses are allowed.
“No-take” State Marine Conservation Area • Prohibits all take and consumptive use, except for take incidental to existing permitted activities such as infrastructure maintenance or water quality operations. 10 33.2
Limited-take State Marine Conservation Area/State Marine Park • MPA designated as SMCA by the Fish and Game Commission and SMP by California State Park and Recreation Commission. 1 6.3
• Only one MPA (Cambria SMCA/SMP) currently has this dual designation, as it was adopted by both Commissions at separate times with the same set of regulations and boundaries.
State Marine Recreational Management Area • Provides subtidal protection equivalent to an MPA while allowing legal waterfowl hunting, scientific research, and non-consumptive uses. 5 4.4
State Marine Conservation Area • May allow select recreational and commercial harvest to continue. 59 333.4
• Scientific research and non-consumptive uses are allowed.
• Fishing restrictions may vary by focal species, habitats, and goals and objectives of individual MPAs.
State Marine Park* • Prohibits commercial take, but may allow select recreational harvest to continue. 0 0
• Scientific research and non-consumptive uses are allowed.
• Prohibits injuring, damaging, taking, or possessing for commercial use any living or non-living marine resources.
Special closure Special Closure • An area designated by the Commission that prohibits access or restricts boating activities in waters adjacent to seabird rookeries or marine mammal haul-out sites. 15 3.3
• This designation is used by the Commission for relatively small, discrete marine areas to achieve the goals of the MLPA.
TOTAL** 124 852

* At present, no SMPs exist in California’s redesigned coastal network of MPAs. As such, they are not included in the statewide counts. Eight MPAs, including seven SMPs, exist within San Francisco Bay and were established prior to the MLPA, and therefore were not part of the MLPA redesign and siting process from 2004-2012.

** Totals do not include special closures or SMPs.

Benefits of Marine Protected Areas to Fisheries

Several studies have examined the possible benefits MPAs could have for fisheries. This section provides a review of those benefits.

Increased catches via spillover

Two types of spillover from MPAs can exist: ecological spillover and fishery spillover (Di Lorenzo et al. 2016). Ecological spillover is the net movement of fish biomass from non-fished areas into fished areas. This may happen when a species exhibits density-independent movement such as home range behavior (Moffitt et al. 2009), ontogenetic shifts with increasing age (Grüss et al. 2011), or when high densities inside MPAs lead to competition for scarce resources, causing some individuals to leave MPAs in search of food or shelter (Goñi et al. 2010). Fishery spillover is the proportion of fish biomass available to a fishery given existing regulations and access constraints. This is most likely to occur when the rate of emigration from MPAs is low enough that MPAs provide some refuge from fishing, but high enough that a certain proportion of the population exit the MPA into fishable areas (Di Lorenzo et al. 2016). This distinction is essential in helping facilitate conversations between stakeholders and policy makers when discussing how spillover may produce effects on fisheries.

While both ecological and fishery spillover of most benthic species requires habitat corridors extending from inside the MPA to fished areas (Bartholomew et al. 2008; Kay and Wilson 2012), this is not always the case. While a different habitat may bisect preferred habitat, if competition within a given habitat is strong, individuals may cross unsuitable or undesirable habitats, searching for other places to settle without an existing habitat corridor (Tupper 2007). This potential outward movement from within MPAs supports the importance of California’s redesigned and interconnected network of MPAs, which resulted in a substantial increase in both the representation and replication of marine habitats protected within MPAs across the state (Saarman et al. 2013; CDFW 2016a).

Increased productivity via larval export

Due to the creation of many new MPAs, California’s MPA network also resulted in a considerable reduction in the distance between habitats protected within MPAs in order to provide for the dispersal of larvae for a range of species and promote connectivity throughout the network (Saarman et al. 2013; CDFW 2016a). MPAs can contribute directly and indirectly to fisheries yields through increased survival and spawning. Protection from fishing within MPAs can result in higher abundances and/or larger female fish, which in turn can result in more eggs (Hastings 1999). The maintenance of unfished size and age structures in fish populations may also boost fecundity and subsequent larval recruitment because older, larger females can produce larvae that are more robust and grow faster than the offspring of younger fish, increasing the probability of successful settlement in some species (Berkeley et al. 2004). In fact, one study predicted that increased larval production from protected species within no-take MPAs may offset reductions in yields from MPA creation (Halpern et al. 2004). However, if the species managed is mobile, there may be no larval spillover across the MPA boundary because highly-mobile species will likely move outside the closed area and be exposed to fishing mortality (Hastings and Botsford 2003). Finally, larval dispersal patterns must also transport larvae to areas where larval recruitment is less than the maximum possible, and prior to any density-dependent effects, that might negate the benefits within the closed areas (Parrish 1999). Thus, MPAs may only increase yields in fisheries in which fishing has reduced larval recruitment, and if the above conditions are met.

Reduced fishing mortality

Spatial closures to fishing, such as MPAs, whether temporary or permanent, are a mechanism to reduce overall fishing mortality (Beverton and Holt 1957). They are functionally similar to increasing the age of fish at first capture or reducing fishing effort (Botsford et al. 2003). It is thus important to remember that the response of harvested populations to protection, and increase in yield outside no-take MPA boundaries, will fundamentally depend on the level of fishing endured by the population prior to no-take MPA implementation (Botsford et al. 2003). MPAs may also provide additional benefits over more traditional fishery management methods because they can prevent incidental habitat damage or the take of vulnerable bycatch species if strategically placed.

The capacity for MPAs to reduce effective fishing mortality also depends on the mobility of the target species and placement of the MPA relative to the location of fishing effort. For fished species that are migratory or have large home ranges relative to the MPA (i.e., Market Squid, Dungeness Crab, salmon, tuna, etc.) and are targeted by spatially-explicit fishing effort, a strategically-placed MPA can provide a refuge from fishing for a portion of the fish or invertebrate’s life history. This in turn can reduce mortality, enhance reproductive potential, or conserve the population through positive influence on another demographic process. For example, Market Squid are highly migratory and adults receive little protection from established MPAs. However, Market Squid prefer to spawn on soft-bottom substrate with a preferred depth range of 65-230 feet (20-70 meters) (Zeidberg et al. 2012). Within these conditions, California’s MPA network protects, at a minimum, approximately 14% of available Market Squid spawning grounds south of Point Conception in Santa Barbara County (CDFW 2016a).

In general, MPAs protect sedentary species or those species with limited mobility within their boundaries. The Department has compiled lists of species likely to benefit from MPAs (JPG)(opens in new tab). MPAs may increase mortality outside of the MPA due to the shift or concentration of existing fishing effort in fishable areas (Guenther 2010). However, following a 10-year study on temperate rocky reefs at California’s northern Channel Islands, Caselle et al. (2015) found that the biomass of targeted/fished species such as Cabezon and Kelp Rockfish within the MPAs increased, as well as the biomass of the same targeted species outside of the MPAs.

Casino Point State Marine Conservation Area. (Brent Barnes/Shutterstock photo)

Insurance against management miscalculations and environmental fluctuations

MPAs can provide a buffer against management miscalculations and environmental fluctuations (Allison et al. 1998; Lauck et al. 1998). Science guidelines for sufficient replication of habitats when redesigning California’s MPAs were incorporated in part to shield against catastrophic loss and effects of environmental fluctuations (Saarman et al. 2013; CDFW 2016a). Because estimates of sustainable catch limits are based on predictions about the average productivity of a stock, there is always the potential to set limits too high during periods of environmental stress, which can reduce recruitment success or increase natural mortality (Roberts et al. 2005). In such cases, protected populations and habitats could potentially serve as natural heritage sites or biological sources if they provide spillover and/or larval replenishment. For some species, MPAs may also dampen variability in recruitment from year-to-year by keeping spawning biomass at higher levels, increasing population resilience to overfishing, and buffering against decreases in reproductive success or increases in mortality (Guénette et al. 1998). Theoretical studies suggest MPAs may also reduce year-to-year variation in catch size, an important economic benefit for fishing communities (Nowlis and Roberts 1999). Therefore, MPAs offer a way for managers to be precautionary, especially for fisheries with little to no data available (Bohnsack 1999).

Protection of natural size and age structures

Management tends to make fishing more selective by modifying gear to focus fishing mortality on specific age or size classes (Reddy et al. 2013). While successful gear modifications direct fishing towards mature, rather than immature, age classes, recent work has shown that highly selective fishing (i.e., males only, a certain size class, a specific time of year) can have detrimental ecological impacts on some species (Zhou et al. 2010; Rochet et al. 2011; Garcia et al. 2012; Worm and Lenihan 2014). For example, larger mature female fish often produce far more and often larger eggs and their larvae grow faster and appear better able to withstand starvation compared to smaller mature females (Berkeley et al. 2004; Hixon et al. 2014). MPAs may provide fishery benefits such as protecting the natural age and size structure of the stock which may not be accomplished through management regulations that focus on catch limits or gear modifications (Bohnsack 1999; Roberts et al. 2005; Kay et al. 2012).

Preserving genetic variation

Protecting natural age structures may preserve genetic variation in species and boost the egg production of a population (Bohnsack 1999). Several studies have documented the effects of intensive fishing on the selection of specific heritable traits in the population (Ricker 1981; Quinn and Adams 1996; Drake et al. 1997). In particular, size-selective fishing can select for faster growth rates, younger age at first maturity, smaller maximum sizes, and behavioral changes (Worm and Lenihan 2014). Over multiple generations of intensive fishing, the alleles associated with other traits may be lost from the population. MPAs can help maintain the genetic diversity of a stock by providing refuge from fishing (Baskett and Barnett 2015).

Marine Protected Areas as fishery reference areas

The significant increase in the size and number of MPAs to the management landscape adds a new class of ecological indicators that may be highly informative to fishery managers. As the number of species protected within MPAs approaches carrying capacity, MPAs may provide robust estimates of unfished density (Bohnsack et al. 2004; Wilson-Vandenberg et al. 2014), an important reference point in the assessment and management of fish populations. Stock assessments estimate the size of a fished population by looking for contrast between data collected from a time when the population was lightly fished and recently collected data. The larger the contrast between these two data streams, the easier it is to estimate the current population size. However, data streams for many fisheries lack historical time series necessary for this comparison. MPAs, if on a spatial scale appropriately representative of a species home range, represent an opportunity for the assessment of data-poor fisheries by acting as a reference area to estimate unfished biomass (Bohnsack 1998; CDFW 2002; Hilborn et al. 2004; Wilson-Vandenberg et al. 2014). The potential effectiveness of reserves as reference areas will also depend on larval and adult movement rates, and should be constrained to the management of stocks at the same spatial scale as the reference area (McGilliard et al. 2015). Depending on the siting process involved, MPAs may be placed in areas with high conservation value at the expense of socioeconomic considerations, and thus may have naturally higher carrying capacities than neighboring unprotected areas (Klein et al. 2008), which could lead to an overestimate of unfished stock size outside the MPAs. Conversely, MPAs may be cited in areas with lower carrying capacities where fishing is not occurring and political opposition is low. California’s MPA network was designed with both ecological and socioeconomic concerns in mind, which potentially reduced or eliminated this bias in MPA placement (Klein et al. 2008; Gleason et al. 2013; Saarman et al. 2013; CDFW 2016a).

MPAs represent contemporary rather than theoretical unfished conditions because they are subject to the same environmental fluctuations and non-fishing anthropogenic effects as nearby fished areas. Therefore, they act as important control sites for understanding both anthropogenic and natural disturbances, as well as buffering against the uncertainty caused by shifting baselines (Bohnsack 1999; CDFW 2002; Hilborn et al. 2004). This is the theoretical basis for a number of assessment methods and HCRs that rely on data from inside MPAs (see Appendix J).

MPAs may also provide a way to estimate biological parameters that are unbiased by the effects of fishing (Bohnsack 1999). As mentioned previously in the ‘Preserving genetic variation’ section, fishing mortality that is very high, or consistent over many years, can bias estimates of biological parameters. Fishing can alter the age at first maturity by selecting for fish that mature prior to recruiting to the fishery and can skew growth estimates if fishing frequently removes the largest individuals from the population. Data from inside MPAs can also be used to estimate natural mortality (Garrison et al. 2011), which is EFI for all stocks, but is difficult to infer because it is frequently confounded by fishing mortality (Jamieson and Levings 2001; Kenchington 2014).

Red rock crabs feeding on a common mola in the midst of patches of market squid eggs and brittle stars. This photo was taken during an ROV survey off Anacapa Island. (CDFW/MARE photo)

Fisheries management challenges and opportunities related to Marine Protected Areas

The previous section ‘Benefits of Marine Protected Areas to Fisheries’ examined the possible benefits MPAs could have for fisheries, such as buffering against uncertainty, reducing bycatch and habitat damage, and improving knowledge. However, MPAs can also pose challenges for fisheries management, such as socioeconomic impacts, shifts in fishing effort, and disruption of stock assessment research. When managing MPAs with a goal of enhancing fisheries management, the challenges, opportunities, and associated potential effects to target species should be considered.

In recognition of the MPA network’s potential effects on California’s fisheries, the Department convened two workshops to strengthen the link between MPAs and fisheries. In 2011, leaders in MPA and fishery management discussed and developed recommendations to help understand the potential effects of the newly-designed MPA network on California’s marine fisheries (Wertz et al. 2011). For example, expected biological effects of MPAs will vary by species and fishery, accruing at different rates and time scales. More immediate impacts may include, but are not limited to, effort displacement possibly followed by localized depletion, while gradual contributions may include spillover, increased biomass, and changes in age and size structure. Since data requirements for managing fisheries are different than those needed to evaluate MPAs, workshop participants recommended monitoring that addresses both MPA and fisheries priorities, such as focusing on those species most likely to be affected by the network and metrics that inform stock assessment (i.e., abundance, density, age, growth, and sex ratios inside and outside of MPAs). In 2014, participants in a subsequent workshop discussed how MPA monitoring and historical data could help inform management of California’s fisheries and MPAs. Identified priorities included focusing on fished species that are data-rich and recognized as likely to benefit from MPAs, identifying reference sites to model the effects of MPAs on fisheries, utilizing seafloor mapping technology to correlate habitat and spatially-explicit catch rates, determining how to couple environmental data with stock assessment data, and collecting socioeconomic data at a finer spatial scale.

The Department and OST developed recommendations to better align fisheries and MPA monitoring within regional MPA baseline monitoring plans (MPA Monitoring Enterprise 2010, 2011, 2014). Recognizing the differences in the scope and information needs for MPA and fisheries monitoring, regional monitoring plans describe options to maximize data collection, particularly for fished species sampled at an appropriate geographic and time scale with adequate replication to detect change.

Reduction in quality and quantity of fishery-dependent data to inform stock assessments

The most commonly used type of fishery-dependent data in stock assessments is CPUE. The fishery CPUE, which is an index of abundance in fished areas, will not reflect any potential increase in abundance of sedentary species within MPAs and may initially be lower after MPA creation due to the concentration of fishing effort in the remaining open space. For species with limited mobility, spillover may result in a concentrated fishing effort along the border of the MPA as fishermen “fish the line” (Murawski et al. 2005; but see Guenther et al. (2015) for alternative fishing responses). Managers should be aware that if data are spatially aggregated over the entire management range, the inflated catch rates near the borders of MPAs may mask declines in catch rates in other areas (McGilliard et al. 2015) and lead to biased assessments (Maunder et al. 2006). Thus, as reserves protect an increasing proportion of the population, standardization techniques must be applied to counteract the higher biases in indices of abundance before they are used in stock assessments (Ono et al. 2015).

Fishery-independent sampling that relies on trawl gear may have habitat impacts, and thus be prohibited inside MPAs. For Phase 1 regional baseline MPA monitoring, California has relied primarily on a variety of fishery-independent sampling methods for MPA monitoring including, but not limited to, collaborative fishing surveys (Starr et al. 2015), scuba surveys (Caselle et al. 2015), remotely operated vehicle surveys (Rosen and Lauermann 2016), and rocky intertidal surveys (Blanchette et al. 2008). For Phase 2 long-term statewide MPA monitoring, the state is prioritizing surveys that extend beyond a regional basis to a statewide scale. Sampling within California’s MPAs is allowed (even in no-take zones) upon approval of a Department scientific collecting permit and can offer the best available method to obtain samples of age structure, age-length, and age-weight relationships that are unbiased by years of selective fishing pressure. Much of this fishery-dependent sampling is catch and release.

Spatial heterogeneity in stock assessments

Stock assessments traditionally assume that the species in question is homogeneously distributed or targeted with uniform fishing effort. MPAs may violate this assumption (Bohnsack 1999) by creating patches of high biomass inside their borders and potentially contributing to stock depletion outside their borders (Hilborn et al. 2006). MPAs and their effects on the spatial distribution of both fish and fishermen may introduce biases in stock assessments, such as over estimations of the population size (Punt and Methot 2004; McGilliard et al. 2015), which can lead to misspecification of catch or effort limits.

Solutions include a greater use of spatially-specific modeling, but this may require data collection on a finer scale (Bohnsack 1999). In addition, spatial models require an understanding of the connectivity of both larval and adult fish between the various spatial patches, which is rarely known with high certainty (Botsford et al. 2003). It may be necessary to conduct separate assessments of the open and closed areas to achieve accurate estimates, which would require separate data streams for the fished and unfished areas (Punt and Methot 2004). The additional data required for spatial assessments increases the cost of fisheries monitoring and assessment programs unless data collected for MPA monitoring can be used to inform fisheries stock assessments on finer spatial scales. An example of such an application was presented by White et al. (2016), who developed an approach to use diver survey data fit to a size-structured model to provide estimates of the fishing mortality rate at the spatial scale of an MPA. They found a much higher pre-MPA implementation fishing mortality rate for Blue Rockfish in the Point Lobos region MPAs than cited in the 2005 Blue Rockfish regional stock assessment.

Abalone survey in the rocky intertidal zone at Sea Lion Cove State Marine Conservation Area. (CDFW photo by Chenchen Shen)

Accounting for populations inside Marine Protected Areas

It is unclear whether the populations within MPAs should be considered when assessing depletion levels and setting harvest limits (Field et al. 2006). Given state mandates to rebuild populations, there is an incentive for managers to count protected biomass in stock assessments to demonstrate increased stock health (Field et al. 2006). However, some research has shown that including protected fish when calculating catch limits based on the total vulnerable biomass may lead to unsustainable fishing mortality rates in the fished region because in reality only a portion of the stock is targeted (Hilborn et al. 2004, 2006). Conversely, in some cases, opposition to MPAs has been tempered via predictions of healthier spawning stocks and increased yields, and so there may be pressure from the fishing industry to count the fraction of population in MPAs as part of the total stock when setting catches. While the Nearshore FMP contemplated the use of MPAs in management, the recently adopted Spiny Lobster FMP is the first instance in which the Department has integrated MPAs through the use of a SPR model. The model accounts for the percentage of lobster habitat protected by MPAs that prohibit take of lobster; thus, providing a reproductive benefit that reflects the importance of MPAs to the reproductive potential of lobster (CDFW 2016b).

The effects of overfishing on the vulnerable stock biomass may negate the benefits of the MPA population because overfishing reduces the age structure of the population, impacting both the YPR and the lifetime spawning output of each individual (Greenstreet et al. 2009). Conversely, not considering protected populations when determining stock status is likely to lead to a reduction in MSY, resulting in reduced catch limits, and can extend the rebuilding period for overfished stocks. All these outcomes may have severe economic impacts on the fishery participants. Movement and larval dispersal between the closed and open populations can alter these predictions.

Fort Bragg community gathering about baseline monitoring of North Coast MPAs. (CDFW photo by L. Lopez)

Informational and management needs for Marine Protected Areas

A primary objective of California’s MPA network was to improve the existing design and management of MPAs relative to the goals and requirements of the MLPA. The MPAs are intended to be used as potential tools to complement fisheries management to maintain and improve ocean resources (CDFW 2016a). While MPAs have several potential benefits for fisheries, they are not a panacea for fisheries management (Sainsbury and Sumaila 2003; Willis et al. 2003; Hilborn et al. 2004; Kaiser 2005). Multiple studies have shown that the ability of MPAs to benefit fisheries requires that very specific conditions be met, including: 1) the presence of specific habitat and life history characteristics; 2) the source-sink dynamics between closed and open areas; and 3) properly siting MPAs to take advantage of these conditions (Agardy et al. 2011).

Monitoring within MPAs is essential to integrating MPAs into existing fishery management frameworks. This appendix has highlighted some of the informational needs that must be met to ensure that MPAs benefit nearby fisheries. They include, but are not limited to, an understanding of the following:

  • Level of fishing prior to MPA implementation.
  • Home range of species relative to size of MPA.
  • Larval connectivity between fished and unfished areas.
  • Size and age structure of species protected within MPAs, and how this changes over time.
  • Abundance/density of stocks within MPAs.
  • Whether the habitat inside MPAs is representative of nearby areas outside MPAs.

Moving forward, the Department and the OPC are collaborating to develop a statewide MPA Monitoring Action Plan. This Action Plan will provide an opportunity for the Department to ensure that long-term monitoring design and data collection efforts assist in the management of California’s fisheries.


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Photo at top of page: A kelp bass at the Laguna Beach State Marine Reserve. (CDFW photo by Stephen Wertz)