Marine Protected Areas


Kelp Bass, photo credit: K. Lafferty, USGS

Interest in marine protected areas (MPAs) has rapidly increased as state, federal and international management agencies and stakeholders consider their application for ecosystem-based management and ocean conservation. PISCO’s broad-scale coordination of research, monitoring, data management, training, and outreach enables effective communication of the science of MPAs and rapid response to policy and management needs.


The Science of MPAs

Scientific understanding of marine reserves and other protected areas is growing rapidly. PISCO scientists and policy coordinators have actively worked to develop a better understanding of the roles and design of MPAs for ecosystem-based management and conservation. Activities include working groups at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) and meetings to synthesize the science of marine reserves. These as well as PISCO-generated data have spawned a number of publications in the scientific and policy literature as well as outreach materials for the general public.

Policy and Advising

PISCO is committed to communicating the science of marine reserves and other protected areas to the public, managers, and policy makers in an active, two-way dialog. We work to inform decision making with accurate science and do not advocate for particular policy and management outcomes. PISCO scientists regularly participate as science advisors to local, state, federal, and international processes. Examples include California's Marine Life Protection Act, Oregon's Ocean Policy Advisory Council, the National Marine Sanctuaries, the Federal Center for Marine Protected Areas , Pew Oceans Commission, and others.

Monitoring and Evaluation

PISCO scientists are involved in the design and implementation of studies to monitor and evaluate the effects of MPAs. In April 2003, the State of California established a network of MPAs within the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary (CINMS). PISCO is working with the California Department of Fish and Game, Channel Islands National Park Service, CINMS and others to develop, implement, and evaluate the ecological monitoring program for these MPAs. Because PISCO had established monitoring sites throughout the Channel Islands prior to the implementation of these protected areas, PISCO’s program has been critical in providing continuity and expanding the monitoring network.

Similarly, our monitoring studies along the central coast of California include existing MPAs and sites inside and outside areas recently proposed for protection by California’s Marine Life Protection Act. The baseline created by these monitoring studies, also in collaboration with the California Department of Fish and Game and Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, provide the foundation for an expanded monitoring program for the MLPA’s MPA network on the central coast.

Read more about our Subtidal Monitoring Program

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