Point St. George Reef Offshore State Marine Conservation Area

Dungeness crabs on a sandy seafloor near the MPA

Overview

Located northwest of Crescent City, Point St. George Reef Offshore State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA) sits approximately eight miles offshore with no direct coastal access. Ranging in depth from 175 to 400 feet, this marine protected area (MPA) protects slightly more than nine square miles of deep, soft and rocky seafloor habitats, including the only offshore banks north of Point Reyes. 

Composed predominately of soft, sandy areas interspersed with rocky reefs, this MPA protects many species from take including flatfish, lingcod, rockfish, anemones, sea whips, sun stars, sea pens, and sea cucumbers. Other species commonly found here include salmon and Dungeness crab, which may be fished commercially and recreationally in the MPA. The nearest landmark lies just outside of Point St. George Reef SMCA at Northwest Seal Rock, home to the historic Saint George Reef lighthouse.

Regulations

It is unlawful to injure, damage, take, or possess any living, geological, or cultural marine resource, EXCEPT:
Recreational and commercial take of salmon by trolling or troll fishing gear, and Dungeness crab by trap is allowed. Includes take exemptions for the following tribes: 

  • Elk Valley Rancheria
  • Tolowa Dee-Ni' Nation 

California Code of Regulations Title 14, Section 632(b)(2)California Code of Regulations Title 14, Section 632(b)(2)(opens in new tab)

Quick Facts

MPA size: 9.52 square miles

Shoreline span: 3.4 miles

Depth range: 176 to 399 feet

Habitat composition:

  • Sand: 9.14 square miles
  • Rock: 0.38 square miles

Video Gallery

Point St. George Reef Offshore State Marine Conservation Area


California's MPA Network

About Point St. George Reef Offshore State Marine Conservation Area

Natural History

anemones and barnacles near the Point St. George Reef Offshore SMCA
Anemones and barnacles near Point St. George Reef Offshore SMCA. CDFW/MARE photo 

Point St. George, the namesake of Point St. George Reef Offshore SMCA, is found outside of the MPA on the coastal mainland. A prominent rocky point about three miles north of Crescent City, Point St. George juts out into the Pacific and provides panoramic views of the area. The rocky point is affiliated with St. George Reef, running northwest from the rocky point. 

The reef’s submerged rock structures teem with life and the exposed rock protrusions are surrounded by open ocean on all sides. A portion of this reef, about a half of a square mile, lies within the SMCA. Remotely operated vehicle expeditions into Point St. George Reef Offshore SMCA reveal biologically diverse marine life inhabiting the deep waters. 

Various species such as vermilion rockfish, yelloweye rockfish, canary rockfish, copper rockfish, and quillback rockfish swim around boulders, while basket stars, California sea cucumbers, and white-plumed anemones inhabit the rocky reef. With expert camouflage, Pacific halibut and other flatfish species hug the sandy ocean floor awaiting their next meal, and sea whips, white sea pens and anemones poke out of the soft substrate as groups of Dungeness crab scurry across the bottom. 

Cultural History

A cabezon near the Point St. George Reef Offshore SMCA
A cabezon near Point St. George Reef Offshore SMCA. CDFW/MARE photo 

For centuries, Native American Tribes in California have relied on marine and coastal resources. Many Native American Tribes in California continue to regularly harvest marine resources within their ancestral territories and maintain relationships with the coast for ongoing customary uses. The Tolowa Dee-ni’ tribe are the indigenous peoples of the coastal region that extends from just north of False Klamath to the Sixes River in Oregon, and up watersheds extending inland from the sea. 

Living along rich coastal waters, the Tolowa people rely on food from the sea, including salmon, smelt, and mussels. Through a factual record of historical take within the Point St. George Reef Offshore SMCA, the Elk Valley Rancheria and the Tolowa Dee-ni' Nation (previously the Smith River Rancheria) are exempt from the MPA regulations. 

British maritime explorer George Vancouver gave Point St. George its name during his 1790s expedition of the eastern Pacific coast. Within the next century, there was a population surge when gold was found in 1849, and the Point St. George area was settled shortly after into the area now known as Crescent City.

Recreation

Dungeness crab on the seafloor near Point St. George Reef Offshore SMCA
Dungeness crab on the seafloor near Point St. George Reef Offshore SMCA. CDFW/MARE photo 

Within the Point St. George Reef Offshore SMCA, some recreational and commercial fishing activities are allowed, including take of Dungeness crab and salmon (see regulations for specific information). 

With depths ranging from about 175 to 400 feet, this MPA is only accessible by boat. Vessels can be launched from nearby Crescent City Harbor. 

Point St. George is an ideal land-based location for viewing the historic lighthouse, just outside the boundaries of the MPA, and for seasonal bird and whale watching.

 

 

 

Coordinates

This area is bounded by the mean high tide line and straight lines connecting the following points in the order listed except where noted:

41° 52.000' N. lat. 124° 23.189' W. long.; 
41° 52.000' N. lat. 124° 25.805' W. long.; thence southward along the three nautical mile offshore boundary to 
41° 49.000' N. lat. 124° 26.252' W. long.;
41° 49.000' N. lat. 124° 23.189' W. long.; and
41° 52.000' N. lat. 124° 23.189' W. long. 

California Code of Regulations Title 14, Section 632(b)(2)

Map

Map of Point St. George Reef Offshore State Marine Conservation Area - link opens in new window

Facts, Map & Regulations

MPA fact sheet