MPAs in California’s Central Coast region, which includes all state waters from Pigeon Point to Point Conception, were implemented on September 22, 2007 under the Marine Life Protection Act.

Long-term Monitoring

The Ocean Science Trust, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the California Ocean Protection Council are engaged in a collaborative effort to plan and implement the next phase of MPA monitoring in the Central Coast, building on the foundation of baseline monitoring in the region. MPA monitoring will ‘take the pulse’ of ocean ecosystems and ocean-based human activities and address key management questions at selected sites inside and outside of MPAs.

The first step in the Central Coast MPA monitoring planning effort is to update the Central Coast MPA Monitoring Plan. A draft updated plan has been developed with extensive input from scientists, resource managers, and stakeholders. This input was collected during large community gatherings, small-group meetings, and discussions from January – April 2014. The draft plan was been released for public input from May 14 - June 4, 2014. It is currently under revision in consideration of the public input received. For more information about this public input process, please visit the Central Coast region page on OceanSpaces.org.

The final draft Central Coast MPA Monitoring Plan will be presented to the Fish and Game Commission in Summer 2014 to guide MPA monitoring and inform MPA management in the region.

In early July 2014, the Ocean Science Trust released the Central Coast Monitoring Survey, an online survey of research activities currently being conducted in the Central Coast. The survey, available through August 29, 2014 on the Central Coast region page on OceanSpaces.org, will help identify the geographic and temporal coverage of monitoring activities inside and outside of Central Coast MPAs, and the compatibility of those activities with the metrics and priorities outlined in the draft Central Coast MPA Monitoring Plan. Data from the survey will also highlight potential partnerships and opportunities to build upon existing capacity in the region.

The Ocean Science Trust and its partners at California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and California Ocean Protection Council (OPC) will use the survey results to help design and implement the next phase of Central Coast MPA monitoring. Survey results will also be publicly available through an interactive dashboard that will be posted on the Central Coast region page on OceanSpaces.org in mid-summer 2014, providing community members with a deeper understanding of monitoring taking place in the region.

Armed with knowledge of monitoring capacity identified in the survey and the monitoring metrics and priorities approved in the Central Coast MPA Monitoring Plan, the Central Coast monitoring program will be built to inform the next turn of the adaptive management cycle. Data collection is anticipated to begin in late Fall 2014/early 2015.

Please view the Central Coast project timeline (available in Additional Resources, on the right) and visit the Central Coast region page on OceanSpaces.org for more information.

Baseline Monitoring

Sharing Monitoring Results

Results from the Central Coast Baseline monitoring program are now accessible in a new summary report: State of the California Central Coast: Results from Baseline Monitoring of Marine Protected Areas 2007-2012, California Ocean Science Trust and California Department of Fish and Wildlife, California, USA. February 2013.

This report was produced by OST's Monitoring Enterprise team working in partnership with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and in collaboration with the Central Coast MPA Baseline Program Principal Investigators as well as many other partners and colleagues in the region. The report is available as a PDF and is also being hosted as an 'E-Book' on OceanSpaces. The E-Book format allows you begin with the summary results and then dive deeper into interactive graphics, videos and raw data. It is designed to provide a richer understanding of the results, as well as of the community who conducted the monitoring.

Baseline results were also shared at a public symposium, State of the California Central Coast, held February 27 – March 1, 2013 in Monterey, CA. Presentations and panel discussions can be viewed on OceanSpaces. We continue to work closely with the Department of Fish and Wildlife, Central Coast baseline project researchers and other partners to share baseline results with policy-makers, resource managers, stakeholders and scientists. The results will be formally presented to the Fish and Game Commission in late Spring 2013 to inform the adaptive management of the regional MPA network.

Key Findings

Academic, agency and citizen scientists studied a range of ecosystems including kelp forests, rocky shores and deep reefs to document patterns in marine life populations and communities through the Central Coast region. Patterns of human use, including commercial and recreational fishing, were also documented. The scientific data gathered, and analysis conducted, add up to the most detailed picture created of current ocean conditions along California's Central Coast. The baseline results serve as a valuable reference point for examining future changes and evaluating the effectiveness of MPA management.

Key findings from monitoring indicate that the Central Coast MPAs are on track. In kelp forests and on nearshore reefs, a range of economically important fish species including cabezon, lingcod, and black rockfish increased in relative abundance in MPAs compared to reference areas. Numbers and sizes of protected black abalone and harvested owl limpets increased inside MPAs, suggesting protection from fishing pressure, increased compliance with MPA regulations and/or effective MPA enforcement.

In addition, fishing remains an integral part of the Central Coast ocean economy. Monitoring results show limited effects and that the local ocean economy has responded, in part, by broadening to include more non-consumptive activities. For example, a shift in activities, such as whale watching tours, demonstrates adaptation and resilience in the industry.

Additional Resources