Statement: State releases report showing California’s marine protected area network benefits ocean life

Media Contacts
Ben Grundy

Conservation Campaign Associate, Environment California Research & Policy Center

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Just one month after members of the California Natural Resources Agency represented California at the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP 15) in Montreal, this week, the agency’s California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) released a seminal report for the 2022 Decadal Management Review of California’s Marine Protected Area (MPA) Network and Management Program. The Fish and Game Commission will now evaluate the report’s recommendations to determine the future of California’s MPA network for the decade ahead. Members of the public will have a chance to weigh in. 

The report found that California’s ocean refuges are having positive effects on marine species, including supporting bigger and more abundant fish populations compared to waters outside their boundaries. The positive benefits of MPA protection were most evident off the southern California coast, where overfishing has threatened marine ecosystems.  

Additionally, the report examined how marine protected areas responded to climate change-driven events. For example, the report found that during the 2014-2016 marine heat wave that affected the United States’ entire Pacific coast, some ecosystems within marine protected areas remained more stable and recovered faster following the heatwave than those in unprotected areas.

The CDFW report provides adaptive management recommendations based on input from partner agencies, tribes, environmental stakeholders, fishing interest groups, members of the public and other stakeholder groups. 

Recommendations include:

  • Provide robust engagement and management opportunities for tribal communities
  • Establish targets for meeting the goals of the Marine Life Protection Act
  • Increase enforcement capacity
  • Expand outreach and education for underrepresented user groups

Environment California Research and Policy Center Conservation Associate Ben Grundy issued the following statement:

“When California passed the Marine Life Protection Act decades ago, we made a down payment for the health of the whales, sea otters and other spectacular ocean life. 

“This report highlights what a smart investment this was and that it’s time to double down on investing in the future of our oceans. While the network we built 10 years ago has led to more fish and more resilient ecosystems, this report reminds us of threats still facing our oceans. 

“This review should prompt state leaders to help the global effort to preserve biodiversity by keeping our ocean safe and our environment healthy. It’s time to expand the effort — and we look forward to working with the state to do so.”

Azul Senior Conservation Manager Karla Garibay Garcia issued the following statement: 

“Marine protected areas are one of the best tools we have to protect our ecosystems and ensure community well-being. CDFW’s recent report reminds us of the value of strong marine protections and the environmental, economic, and cultural benefits that flow from having these protections.

“California has an incredible opportunity to strengthen the state’s MPA network, but to accomplish this, it will be essential for state leaders to center equity, strengthen partnerships with California’s diverse coastal communities, and consider climate change impacts when developing adaptive management actions.” 

NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) senior oceans advocate, Anupa Asokan, issued the following statement:

“As the impacts on our marine and coastal ecosystems continue to grow, it’s refreshing to have even more evidence that solutions like marine protected areas are working to protect biodiversity. Looking ahead to the next decade, NRDC believes the state must build on the success of its protected area network by strengthening protections for the benefit of everyone across the state.”