California Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)

nudibranch on kelp blade
bridge over river
Asilomar blog article
surf grass
nudibranch under water on sand
rock scallop
surfer riding a wave
mussels and anemones

MPA Overview

California's coast and ocean are among our most treasured resources. The productivity, wildness, and beauty found here is central to California's identity, heritage, and economy. The need to safeguard the long-term health of California's marine life was recognized by the California Legislature in 1999 with the passage of the Marine Life Protection Act. This Act aims to protect California’s marine natural heritage through establishing a statewide network of marine protected areas (MPAs) designed, created, and managed using sound science and stakeholder input.

MPAs protect the diversity and abundance of marine life, the habitats they depend on, and the integrity of marine ecosystems. The Marine Life Protection Act recognizes that a combination of MPAs with varied amounts of allowed activities and protections (marine reserves, marine conservation areas, and marine parks) can help conserve biological diversity, provide a sanctuary for marine life, and enhance recreational and educational opportunities. MPAs can also provide scientific reference points to assist with resource management decisions, and protect a variety of marine habitats, communities, and ecosystems for their economic and intrinsic value, for generations to come.

The Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) was passed in 1999 by the California Legislature, directing the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to redesign California’s existing system of marine protected areas (MPAs) to increase its coherence and effectiveness for protecting the state’s marine life, habitats, and ecosystems. From 2004 to 2012, the MLPA Initiative (a public-private partnership between CDFW, the California Natural Resources Agency, and Resources Legacy Fund Foundation) directed and informed four regional science guided and stakeholder driven MPA design and siting processes. A detailed report on the results of this process is found in the link opens in new tab or windowOverview of Alternative Marine Protected Area Proposals (PDF). Specific design guidelines and documentation for each regional planning process are accessible through the MPA Planning Process Historical Information link below.

Rocky reef with a Garibaldi - a bright orange fishCalifornia reviews its MPA Network every 10 years to inform the MPA Management Program, with the first review set to occur in December 2022.

Visit the Decadal Management Review webpage for more information.

For any inquiries or comments about the 2022 Decadal Management Review or MPAs in general, please e-mail

Select an MPA region for regulations, maps and coordinates:

California Marine Protected Areas Northern California MPAs North Central California MPAs Central California MPAs Southern California MPAs San Francisco Bay MPAs