The initiative to plan and designate a network of MPAs along the coast of the US state of California has entered its second phase, following the announcement in February 2007 of a task force to oversee planning for the state’s north central coast.

The initiative’s first phase, which addressed the central coast, resulted in a proposal last August to designate 29 MPAs, covering 528 km2 (MPA News 8:3). Under that proposal, nearly half of the total MPA area on the central coast (46%) would be no-take; the remainder would allow limited recreational or commercial fishing. The California Fish and Game Commission is scheduled to adopt regulations for the central coast MPAs on 13 April. Those MPAs will be the first product of the state’s eight-year process so far to build a system of marine reserves along its entire coast. The California state legislature passed the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) in 1999 with a goal of redesigning and strengthening the state’s fragmented system of MPAs (MPA News 1:3).

One benefit of taking a region-by-region approach to this planning is being able to improve the process for subsequent regions, says John Ugoretz, habitat conservation program manager (marine region) for the California Department of Fish and Game. In fact, several documents describing lessons learned from the first phase are available on the MLPA website ( Lessons cover a variety of subjects – from the roles that agencies and scientific advisors should play in the planning process, to gauging how much information on socioeconomic impacts is required for decision-making on MPA network design. “Future regions will certainly benefit from the information developed during the first regional process,” says Ugoretz.

Public comments on the MLPA process in general or the north central coast planning phase in particular may be submitted via the Web, at

For more information:
John Ugoretz, Department of Fish and Game, 1933 Cliff Drive, Suite 9, Santa Barbara, CA 93109, USA. E-mail: