Marine protected areas (MPAs) along the southern California coast (Point Conception to California/Mexico border) have been in effect in state waters since January 1, 2012. State waters in this area cover approximately 2,351 square miles of ocean, estuary and offshore rock/island waters.

What are Marine Protected Areas?

Marine protected areas (MPAs) are marine or estuarine waters set aside primarily to protect or conserve marine life, and its associated habitat. MPAs have varying levels of protections and allowed uses.


• Provide opportunities to learn from and enjoy marine areas subject to reduced human disturbance

• Protect and sustain marine life, habitats and ecosystems


Types of MPAs


California uses three main MPA classifications:

  • State Marine Reserve (SMR): An MPA where take, damage, injury, or possession of any marine resource (living, geological or cultural) is prohibited.
  •  State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA): An MPA where take, damage, injury, or possession of any marine resource (living, geological, or cultural) is prohibited EXCEPT, for example, take incidental to permitted activities such as infrastructure maintenance, sand renourishment, etc.
  • State Marine Park (SMP): An MPA where it is unlawful to injure, damage, take, or possess any living or nonliving marine resource for commercial exploitation purposes. Any human use that would compromise protection of the species of interest, natural community or habitat, or geological, cultural, or recreational features, may be restricted by the designating entity or managing agency.


What activities are permitted in an MPA?

Unless specifically prohibited, non-consumptive activities such as diving, surfing, swimming and boating are allowed within MPAs, as long as take restrictions are followed. It’s a good idea to review the regulations before visiting an MPA.

For More Information Visit the Website of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife by clicking the icon below:



Southern CA MPA Map

south coast map

Volunteer with Heal The Bay

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heal the bay logo

L.A. County Marine Protected Area Maps

Southern CA Booklet

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Point Dume MPA


Point Vicente MPA

point vicente map

Catalina Island MPA

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