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FGC Division 1, Sections 2850-2863 Marine Life Protection Act
CA Codes (fgc:2850-2863)FISH AND GAME CODE
2850. This chapter shall be known and may be cited as the Marine
Life Protection Act.
2851. The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
(a) California's marine protected areas (MPAs) were established on
a piecemeal basis rather than according to a coherent plan and sound
scientific guidelines. Many of these MPAs lack clearly defined
purposes, effective management measures and enforcement. As a
result, the array of MPAs creates the illusion of protection while
falling far short of its potential to protect and conserve living
marine life and habitat.
(b) California's extraordinary marine biological diversity is a
vital asset to the state and nation. The diversity of species and
ecosystems found in the state's ocean waters is important to public
health and well-being, ecological health, and ocean-dependent
(c) Coastal development, water pollution, and other human
activities threaten the health of marine habitat and the biological
diversity found in California's ocean waters. New technologies and
demands have encouraged the expansion of fishing and other activities
to formerly inaccessible marine areas that once recharged nearby
fisheries. As a result, ecosystems throughout the state's ocean
waters are being altered, often at a rapid rate.
(d) Fish and other sea life are a sustainable resource, and
fishing is an important community asset. MPAs and sound fishery
management are complementary components of a comprehensive effort to
sustain marine habitats and fisheries.
(e) Understanding of the impacts of human activities and the
processes required to sustain the abundance and diversity of marine
life is limited. The designation of certain areas as sea life
reserves can help expand our knowledge by providing baseline
information and improving our understanding of ecosystems where
minimal disturbance occurs.
(f) Marine life reserves are an essential element of an MPA system
because they protect habitat and ecosystems, conserve biological
diversity, provide a sanctuary for fish and other sea life, enhance
recreational and educational opportunities, provide a reference point
against which scientists can measure changes elsewhere in the marine
environment, and may help rebuild depleted fisheries.
(g) Despite the demonstrated value of marine life reserves, only
14 of the 220,000 square miles of combined state and federal ocean
water off California, or six-thousandths of 1 percent, are set aside
as genuine no take areas.
(h) For all of the above reasons, it is necessary to modify the
existing collection of MPAs to ensure that they are designed and
managed according to clear, conservation-based goals and guidelines
that take full advantage of the multiple benefits that can be derived
from the establishment of marine life reserves.
2852. The following definitions govern the construction of this
(a) "Adaptive management," with regard to marine protected areas,
means a management policy that seeks to improve management of
biological resources, particularly in areas of scientific
uncertainty, by viewing program actions as tools for learning.
Actions shall be designed so that, even if they fail, they will
provide useful information for future actions, and monitoring and
evaluation shall be emphasized so that the interaction of different
elements within marine systems may be better understood.
(b) "Biogeographical regions" refers to the following oceanic or
near shore areas, seaward from the mean high tide line or the mouth
of coastal rivers, with distinctive biological characteristics,
unless the master plan team establishes an alternative set of
(1) The area extending south from Point Conception.
(2) The area between Point Conception and Point Arena.
(3) The area extending north from Point Arena.
(c) "Marine protected area" (MPA) means a named, discrete
geographic marine or estuarine area seaward of the mean high tide
line or the mouth of a coastal river, including any area of
intertidal or subtidal terrain, together with its overlying water and
associated flora and fauna that has been designated by law,
administrative action, or voter initiative to protect or conserve
marine life and habitat. An MPA includes marine life reserves and
other areas that allow for specified commercial and recreational
activities, including fishing for certain species but not others,
fishing with certain practices but not others, and kelp harvesting,
provided that these activities are consistent with the objectives of
the area and the goals and guidelines of this chapter. MPAs are
primarily intended to protect or conserve marine life and habitat,
and are therefore a subset of marine managed areas (MMAs), which are
broader groups of named, discrete geographic areas along the coast
that protect, conserve, or otherwise manage a variety of resources
and uses, including living marine resources, cultural and historical
resources, and recreational opportunities.
(d) "Marine life reserve," for the purposes of this chapter, means
a marine protected area in which all extractive activities,
including the taking of marine species, and, at the discretion of the
commission and within the authority of the commission, other
activities that upset the natural ecological functions of the area,
are prohibited. While, to the extent feasible, the area shall be
open to the public for managed enjoyment and study, the area shall be
maintained to the extent practicable in an undisturbed and
2853. (a) The Legislature finds and declares that there is a need
to reexamine and redesign California's MPA system to increase its
coherence and its effectiveness at protecting the state's marine
life, habitat, and ecosystems.
(b) To improve the design and management of that system, the
commission, pursuant to Section 2859, shall adopt a Marine Life
Protection Program, which shall have all of the following goals:
(1) To protect the natural diversity and abundance of marine life,
and the structure, function, and integrity of marine ecosystems.
(2) To help sustain, conserve, and protect marine life
populations, including those of economic value, and rebuild those
that are depleted.
(3) To improve recreational, educational, and study opportunities
provided by marine ecosystems that are subject to minimal human
disturbance, and to manage these uses in a manner consistent with
(4) To protect marine natural heritage, including protection of
representative and unique marine life habitats in California waters
for their intrinsic value.
(5) To ensure that California's MPAs have clearly defined
objectives, effective management measures, and adequate enforcement,
and are based on sound scientific guidelines.
(6) To ensure that the state's MPAs are designed and managed, to
the extent possible, as a network.
(c) The program may include areas with various levels of
protection, and shall include all of the following elements:
(1) An improved marine life reserve component consistent with the
guidelines in subdivision (c) of Section 2857.
(2) Specific identified objectives, and management and enforcement
measures, for all MPAs in the system.
(3) Provisions for monitoring, research, and evaluation at
selected sites to facilitate adaptive management of MPAs and ensure
that the system meets the goals stated in this chapter.
(4) Provisions for educating the public about MPAs, and for
administering and enforcing MPAs in a manner that encourages public
(5) A process for the establishment, modification, or abolishment
of existing MPAs or new MPAs established pursuant to this program,
that involves interested parties, consistent with paragraph (7) of
subdivision (b) of Section 7050, and that facilitates the designation
of MPAs consistent with the master plan adopted pursuant to Section
2854. The workgroup shall, after appropriate consultation with
members of the public, determine future actions for implementing the
recommendations of its final report.
2855. (a) The commission shall adopt a master plan that guides the
adoption and implementation of the Marine Life Protection Program
adopted pursuant to Section 2853 and decisions regarding the siting
of new MPAs and major modifications of existing MPAs. The plan shall
be based on the best readily available science.
(b) (1) The department shall prepare, or by contract shall cause
to be prepared, a master plan in accordance with this subdivision.
In order to take full advantage of scientific expertise on MPAs, the
department shall convene a master plan team to advise and assist in
the preparation of the master plan, or hire a contractor with
relevant expertise to assist in convening such a team.
(2) The team members convened pursuant to this subdivision shall
have expertise in marine life protection and shall be knowledgeable
about the use of protected areas as a marine ecosystem management
tool. The members shall also be familiar with underwater ecosystems
found in California waters, with the biology and habitat requirements
of major species groups in the state's marine waters, and with water
quality and related issues.
(3) The team shall be composed of the following individuals:
(A) Staff from the department, the Department of Parks and
Recreation, and the State Water Resources Control Board, to be
designated by each of those departments.
(B) Five to seven members who shall be scientists, one of whom may
have expertise in the economics and culture of California coastal
(C) One member, appointed from a list prepared by Sea Grant marine
advisers, who shall have direct expertise with ocean habitat and sea
life in California marine waters.
(4) The master plan shall be prepared with the advice, assistance,
and involvement of participants in the various fisheries and their
representatives, marine conservationists, marine scientists, and
other interested persons. In preparing the master plan, the
department shall confer, to the extent feasible, with the commission,
the Pacific Fishery Management Council, the National Marine
Fisheries Service, the United States Navy, the United States
Geological Survey's national biological survey, staff from national
marine sanctuaries off California, Sea Grant researchers, marine
advisers, and national parks personnel.
(5) The department may engage other experts to contribute to the
master plan, including scientists, geographic information system
(GIS) experts, and commercial and recreational fishermen, divers, and
other individuals knowledgeable about the state's underwater
ecosystems, the history of fishing effort or MPA management, or other
(c) The department and team, in carrying out this chapter, shall
take into account relevant information from local communities, and
shall solicit comments and advice for the master plan from interested
parties on issues including, but not necessarily limited to, each of
(1) Practical information on the marine environment and the
relevant history of fishing and other resources use, areas where
fishing is currently prohibited, and water pollution in the state's
(2) Socioeconomic and environmental impacts of various
(3) Design of monitoring and evaluation activities.
(4) Methods to encourage public participation in the stewardship
of the state's MPAs.
2856. (a) (1) The department and team shall use the best readily
available scientific information in preparing the master plan adopted
pursuant to Section 2855, and shall organize the location-specific
contents, where feasible, by biogeographical region. In preparing
the plan, the department and team shall use and build upon the
findings of the Sea Grant survey of protected areas in California
waters, which is entitled "California's Marine Protected Areas," the
report of the State Interagency Marine Managed Areas Workgroup, the
Department of Parks and Recreation's planning information and
documents regarding existing and potential underwater parks and
reserves, maps and other information from the department's marine
nearshore ecosystem mapping project, and other relevant planning and
(2) The master plan shall include all of the following components:
(A) Recommendations for the extent and types of habitat that
should be represented in the MPA system and in marine life reserves.
Habitat types described on maps shall include, to the extent
possible using existing information, rocky reefs, intertidal zones,
sandy or soft ocean bottoms, underwater pinnacles, sea mounts, kelp
forests, submarine canyons, and seagrass beds.
(B) An identification of select species or groups of species
likely to benefit from MPAs, and the extent of their marine habitat,
with special attention to marine breeding and spawning grounds, and
available information on oceanographic features, such as current
patterns, upwelling zones, and other factors that significantly
affect the distribution of those fish or shellfish and their larvae.
(C) Recommendations to augment or modify the guidelines in
subdivision (c) of Section 2857, if necessary to ensure that the
guidelines reflect the most up-to-date science, including, for
example, recommendations regarding the minimum size of individual
marine life reserves needed to accomplish the various goals set forth
in Section 2853.
(D) Recommended alternative networks of MPAs, including marine
life reserves in each biogeographical region that are capable of
achieving the goals in Section 2853 and designed according to the
guidelines in subdivision (c) of Section 2857.
(E) A simplified classification system, which shall be consistent
with the goals of Section 2853 and the guidelines in subdivision (c)
of Section 2857, and which may include protections for specific
habitats or species, if no system that meets these specifications has
already been developed.
(F) Recommendations for a preferred siting alternative for a
network of MPAs that is consistent with the goals in Section 2853 and
the guidelines in subdivision (c) of Section 2857.
(G) An analysis of the state's current MPAs, based on the
preferred siting alternative, and recommendations as to whether any
specific MPAs should be consolidated, expanded, abolished,
reclassified, or managed differently so that, taken as a group, the
MPAs best achieve the goals of Section 2853 and conform to the
guidelines in subdivision (c) of Section 2857.
(H) Recommendations for monitoring, research, and evaluation in
selected areas of the preferred alternative, including existing and
long-established MPAs, to assist in adaptive management of the MPA
network, taking into account existing and planned research and
(I) Recommendations for management and enforcement measures for
the preferred alternative that apply systemwide or to specific types
of sites and that would achieve the goals of this chapter.
(J) Recommendations for improving the effectiveness of enforcement
practices, including, to the extent practicable, the increased use
of advanced technology surveillance systems.
(K) Recommendations for funding sources to ensure all MPA
management activities are carried out and the Marine Life Protection
Program is implemented.
(b) The team shall, as necessary, identify and define additional
appropriate components of the master plan as soon as possible after
enactment of this section.
2857. (a) On or before July 1, 2001, the department shall convene,
in each biogeographical region and to the extent practicable near
major working harbors, siting workshops, composed of interested
parties, to review the alternatives for MPA networks and to provide
advice on a preferred siting alternative. The department and team
shall develop a preferred siting alternative that incorporates
information and views provided by people who live in the area and
other interested parties, including economic information, to the
extent possible while maintaining consistency with the goals of
Section 2853 and guidelines in subdivision (c) of this section.
(b) The preferred alternative may include MPAs that will achieve
either or both of the following objectives:
(1) Protection of habitat by prohibiting potentially damaging
fishing practices or other activities that upset the natural
ecological functions of the area.
(2) Enhancement of a particular species or group of species, by
prohibiting or restricting fishing for that species or group within
the MPA boundary.
(c) The preferred siting alternative shall include MPA networks
with an improved marine life reserve component, and shall be designed
according to each of the following guidelines:
(1) Each MPA shall have identified goals and objectives.
Individual MPAs may serve varied primary purposes while collectively
achieving the overall goals and guidelines of this chapter.
(2) Marine life reserves in each bioregion shall encompass a
representative variety of marine habitat types and communities,
across a range of depths and environmental conditions.
(3) Similar types of marine habitats and communities shall be
replicated, to the extent possible, in more than one marine life
reserve in each biogeographical region.
(4) Marine life reserves shall be designed, to the extent
practicable, to ensure that activities that upset the natural
ecological functions of the area are avoided.
(5) The MPA network and individual MPAs shall be of adequate size,
number, type of protection, and location to ensure that each MPA
meets its objectives and that the network as a whole meets the goals
and guidelines of this chapter.
(d) The department and team, in developing the preferred siting
alternative, shall take into account the existence and location of
commercial kelp beds.
(e) The department and team may provide recommendations for
phasing in the new MPAs in the preferred siting alternative.
2858. The department shall establish a process for external peer
review of the scientific basis for the master plan prepared pursuant
to Section 2855. The peer review process may be based, to the extent
practicable, on the peer review process described in Section 7062.
2859. (a) On or before January 1, 2005, the department shall submit
to the commission a draft of the master plan prepared pursuant to
(b) On or before April 1, 2005, after public review, not less than
three public meetings, and appropriate modifications of the draft
plan, the department shall submit a proposed final master plan to the
commission. On or before December 1, 2005, the commission shall
adopt a final master plan and a Marine Life Protection Program with
regulations based on the plan and shall implement the program, to the
extent funds are available. The commission's adoption of the plan
and a program based on the plan shall not trigger an additional
review under the California Environmental Quality Act (Division 13
(commencing with Section 21000) of the Public Resources Code).
(c) The commission shall hold at least two public hearings on the
master plan and the Marine Life Protection Program prior to adopting
the plan and program. The commission may adopt the plan and the
program immediately following the second public hearing or at any
duly noticed subsequent meeting.
(d) Upon the commission's adoption of the program, the commission
shall submit the master plan and program description, including
marine life reserve and other MPA designations, to the Joint
Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture for review and comment. Upon
receipt of the plan, the joint committee shall have 60 days to review
the plan and to submit written recommendations to the commission
regarding the plan and program. The joint committee shall only
submit a recommendation to the commission if a majority of the
members agree to that recommendation. The commission shall consider
all recommendations submitted by the joint committee, and may amend
the program to incorporate the recommendations. If the commission
does not incorporate any recommendations submitted by the joint
committee, the commission shall set forth, in writing, its reasons
for not incorporating that recommendation.
2860. (a) The commission may regulate commercial and recreational
fishing and any other taking of marine species in MPAs.
(b) Notwithstanding any other provision of this code, the taking
of a marine species in a marine life reserve is prohibited for any
purpose, including recreational and commercial fishing, except that
the commission may authorize the taking of a marine species for
scientific purposes, consistent with the purposes of this chapter,
under a scientific collecting permit issued by the department.
2861. (a) The commission shall, annually until the master plan is
adopted and thereafter at least every three years, receive, consider,
and promptly act upon petitions from any interested party, to add,
delete, or modify MPAs, favoring those petitions that are compatible
with the goals and guidelines of this chapter.
(b) Prior to the adoption of a new MPA or the modification of an
existing MPA that would make inoperative a statute, the commission
shall provide a copy of the proposed MPA to the Legislature for
review by the Joint Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture or, if
there is no such committee, to the appropriate policy committee in
each house of the Legislature.
(c) Nothing in this chapter restricts any existing authority of
the department or the commission to make changes to improve the
management or design of existing MPAs or designate new MPAs prior to
the completion of the master plan. The commission may abbreviate the
master plan process to account for equivalent activities that have
taken place before enactment of this chapter, providing that those
activities are consistent with this chapter.
2862. The department, in evaluating proposed projects with
potential adverse impacts on marine life and habitat in MPAs, shall
highlight those impacts in its analysis and comments related to the
project and shall recommend measures to avoid or fully mitigate any
impacts that are inconsistent with the goals and guidelines of this
chapter or the objectives of the MPA.
2863. The department shall confer as necessary with the United
States Navy regarding issues related to its activities.