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Our ocean economy is worth a whopping $40 billion. Tourism and recreation make up the lion’s share of that, accounting for 75% of ocean-related jobs. Part of what makes our coastal and ocean economy so strong is our state’s investment in the nation’s first statewide network of marine protected areas, or underwater parks. Today, about 30% of the coastline and 16% of state waters are protected, including special places like La Jolla, Crystal Cove and Point Reyes.
Underwater parks boost the numbers, size, and, diversity of plants and animals living within their borders. Marine reserves help safeguard critical ocean habitats and help all types of marine life to thrive, from the coral of the seafloor, to the fish and mammals that reach the water’s surface, and all marine life in between. Ocean-lovers from all walks of life came together to create marine reserves, with guidance from scientists. They have been called “hope spots,” because they are our best hope for restoring the beauty and bounty of ocean life threatened by overfishing, pollution and habitat destruction.
California Coastkeeper Alliance helped California become a world leader in ocean protection by creating the nation’s first system of underwater parks, but our work is far from done. CCKA watchdogs coastal industrial facilities, pollution and climate change impacts to our marine ecosystems, and works to enforce agency laws and policies to address these threats to MPAs. CCKA also advocates for investments in restoration, monitoring and enforcement in and around marine protected areas throughout California, to ensure the most robust possible protection of these areas.
Throughout California, residents making a difference in ocean protection by joining local efforts to support marine protected areas – and you can too! Visit the Department of Fish and Game’s website for online maps of all the marine protected areas by region or visit the mobile site to identify underwater parks in your area. Join a local MPA Collaborative, groups of ocean experts and authorities who create locally-tailored programs and strategies for outreach and education, enforcement and compliance and research and monitoring for these special areas. Or volunteer with a locally-based MPA Watch program. Orange County Coastkeeper, Los Angeles Waterkeeper, Santa Barbara Channelkeeper, The Otter Project and other local groups regularly walk the beaches and coastal areas next to MPAs to ensure that the rules are followed, and to track all kinds of uses in these popular places.
Above all else, enjoy your marine reserves! Thriving protected areas provide a great environment for kayaking, diving, snorkeling and tidepooling.