Point Conception State Marine Reserve (SMR) is located where the coast of California changes dramatically. The majority of California’s coastline runs in a predominantly north-to-south direction for more than 500 miles, from the Oregon border to Santa Barbara County. Just past Vandenberg Space Force Base (previously Vandenberg Air Force Base), about 45 miles west of the city of Santa Barbara, the coastline takes an abrupt turn and runs east to west. Point Conception marks the beginning of the Southern California Bight, the curved coastline between the point and San Diego, and the area of the Pacific Ocean defined by that curve. This change at the Point Conception Lighthouse is accompanied by dramatic shifts in weather, currents, and ecosystems, which combine to make the marine communities here some of the most productive in the world.
Point Conception SMR encompasses more than 22 square miles of marine and coastal habitat. This marine protected area (MPA) contains kelp forests, surfgrass beds, and rocky reefs surrounded by sandy seafloor, and hosts diverse and abundant fish, invertebrates, birds, and marine mammals. The adjoining terrestrial area was operated for more than 100 years as a cattle ranch. The land and waters straddling Point Conception are a time capsule of oak woodlands, coastal prairies, and beaches whose breaks are revered by surfers.
It is unlawful to injure, damage, take, or possess any living, geological, or cultural marine resource.
California Code of Regulations Title 14, Section 632(b)(96)(opens in new tab)
MPA size: 22.52 square miles
Shoreline span: 3.7 miles
Depth range: 0 to 489 feet
- Rock: 1.70 square miles
- Sand/mud: 20.85 square miles