Marine Protected Areas

Sea lion hovering just over the ocean floor, looking at the photographer
California sea lion in Gull Island Marine Reserve.

NPS / Brett Seymour

In 2003, the State of California Fish and Game Commission established 13 Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) within the state waters of Channel Islands National Park. In 2006 and 2007, the boundaries of these MPAs were extended into federal waters of the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. Approximately 21% of the waters within the park and sanctuary are now protected by these MPAs.

What are MPAs?

While most of the waters within the park and sanctuary are open to state and federally regulated commercial and/or recreational activities like fishing, the MPAs function more like a marine refuge, similar to our terrestrial national parks. They are open for public enjoyment of non-consumptive activities like boating, surfing or SCUBA diving, but fishing and other activities that involve the “take” of resources are limited or entirely prohibited. No-take marine reserves are the primary type of MPA in Channel Islands National Park prohibiting all take of living, geological, or cultural resources. Marine conservation areas are similar but allow exceptions for specific commercial and/or recreational fisheries. MPA rules and regulations are available from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Map of Channel Islands Marine Protected Areas
Map of Channel Islands Marine Protected Areas. Marine Protected Areas designated as Marine Reserves are in red, and areas designated as Marine Conservation Areas are in blue.

The MPAs were created to:

  • Serve a sanctuary for marine life to preserve species diversity and abundance;

  • Protect marine habitats and ecosystems that species rely on;

  • Minimize short-term social and economic losses while maintaining long-term benefits such more productive and sustainable regional fisheries;

  • Maintain areas for visitors’ recreational, educational, and spiritual use that are minimally impacted by human disturbance; and

  • Provide scientific points of reference to assist with resource management decisions in the MPAs and surrounding waters.
Diver face to face with an enormous black seabass
Marine Protected Areas help preserve the diversity and abundance of marine life in and around Channel Islands National Park. Here, a diver encounters a giant black sea bass.

Jeffrey Bozanic


Monitoring in the MPAs

In 2005, a monitoring plan was designed for the network of MPAs at the Channel Islands to evaluate their effectiveness and to detect biological, economic, and behavioral changes in and around their boundaries. Some of this monitoring is conducted by Channel Islands National Park’s Kelp Forest Monitoring Program (KFMP) which added new survey sites in and around four of the MPAs. Monitoring is also conducted by the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans (PISCO) at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Last updated: February 12, 2024

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