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San Dieguito Lagoon SMCA, San Diego-Scripps Coastal SMCA, Matlahuayl SMR, South La Jolla SMCA, South La Jolla SMR

Like state and national parks protect wildlife and habitats on land, marine protected areas (MPAs) conserve and restore wildlife and habitats in our ocean. Under the California Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) passed in 1999, California began a historic effort to establish a science-based, statewide network of MPAs through a collaborative effort that includes the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and California State Parks. California is taking a regional approach to the design and implementation of MPAs, and has divided the state into five regions: the north coast, south coast, north central coast, central coast and San Francisco Bay.

MPAs contribute to healthier, more resilient ocean ecosystems that can better withstand a wide range of impacts such as pollution and climate change. By protecting entire ecosystems rather than focusing on a single species, MPAs are powerful tools for conserving and restoring ocean biodiversity, and protecting cultural resources, while allowing certain activities such as marine recreation and research. There is a global body of scientific evidence about the effectiveness of marine protected areas and reserves to restore marine ecosystems (http://www.piscoweb.org/outreach/pubs/reserves).

In the waters adjacent to Torrey Pines State Beach, there are five MPAs, San Dieguito Lagoon State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA), San Diego-Scripps Coastal State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA), Matlahuayl State Marine Reserve (SMR), South La Jolla State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA), and South La Jolla State Marine Reserve (SMR).

  • San Dieguito Lagoon State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA)
    • This area consists of waters below the mean high tide line within the San Dieguito Lagoon Ecological Reserve.
    • The San Dieguito Lagoon was recently selected as the site of a Wetlands Restoration Project, the majority of which is already complete. A number of species that depend on our vanishing coastal wetlands are already benefiting from the newly restored wetlands. Ocean fish are using the deeper water as nurseries, and salt marsh vegetation is providing critical nesting habitat for endangered birds like the Belding’s Savannah Sparrow. The lagoon is also an important stop for over 100 birds that migrate along the Pacific Flyway and use it as a place to rest. (San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy)
    • Permitted/Prohibited Uses: Take of all living marine resources is prohibited EXCEPT the recreational take of Finfish by hook-and-line only from shore and the Grand Avenue Bridge.
    • Other Regulations:
      • Boating, swimming, wading, and diving are prohibited within the conservation area.
      • No person, except state and local law enforcement officers, fire suppression agencies and employees of the department in the performance of their official duties or persons possessing written permission from the department, shall be permitted on the California least tern nesting island.
      • No person, except state and local law enforcement officers, fire suppression agencies and employees of the department in the performance of their official duties or persons possessing written permission from the department, shall enter this conservation area between 8:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m.
    • A Recreational Guide to San Diego’s Underwater Parks – produced by WILDCOAST and CDFW
    • Fishing Guide to San Diego’s Marine Protected Areas – produced by WILDCOAST and CDFW

  • San Diego-Scripps Coastal State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA)
    • This area is bounded by the mean high tide line and straight lines connecting the following points in the order listed:
      32° 53.000' N. lat. 117° 15.166' W. long.;
      32° 53.000' N. lat. 117° 16.400' W. long.;
      32° 51.964' N. lat. 117° 16.400' W. long.; and
      32° 51.964' N. lat. 117° 15.233' W. long.
    • Permitted/Prohibited Uses: Take of all living marine resources is prohibited EXCEPT the recreational take of coastal pelagic species, except market squid, by hook-and-line only.
    • Other Regulations:
      • Licensees of the Regents of the University of California and all officers, employees, and students of such university may take, for scientific purposes, invertebrates, fish, or specimens of marine plant or algae under the conditions prescribed in a scientific collecting permit issued by the department.
    • A Recreational Guide to San Diego’s Underwater Parks – produced by WILDCOAST and CDFW
    • Fishing Guide to San Diego’s Marine Protected Areas – produced by WILDCOAST and CDFW

  • Matlahuayl State Marine Reserve (SMR)
    • This area is bounded by the mean high tide line and straight lines connecting the following points in the order listed:
      32° 51.964' N. lat. 117° 15.233' W. long.;
      32° 51.964' N. lat. 117° 16.400' W. long.; and
      32° 51.067' N. lat. 117° 16.400' W. long.
    • One of Southern California’s most renowned dive and snorkel sites, La Jolla Cove’s protected area was renamed Matlahuayl State Marine Reserve in honor of its Native American heritage. La Jolla features a sheltered kelp forest that’s teeming with leopard sharks, bright garibaldi, lobsters, octopus and much more.
    • Permitted/Prohibited Uses: Take of all living marine resources is prohibited.
    • Other Regulations:
      • Boats may be launched and retrieved only in designated areas and may be anchored within the reserve only during daylight hours.
    • Top 10 Dive Sites in California’s Underwater Parks – Ocean Conservancy Blog
    • A Recreational Guide to San Diego’s Underwater Parks – produced by WILDCOAST and CDFW

  • South La Jolla State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA)
    • This area is bounded by straight lines connecting the following points in the order listed except where noted:
      32° 49.573' N. lat. 117° 19.000' W. long.;
      32° 49.573' N. lat. 117° 20.528' W. long.;
      thence southward along the three nautical mile offshore boundary to
      32° 47.945' N. lat. 117° 20.068' W. long.;
      32° 47.945' N. lat. 117° 19.000' W. long.; and
      32° 47.945' N. lat. 117° 19.000' W. long.
    • La Jolla boasts one of southern California’s most vibrant kelp forests, the region’s largest and most biodiverse rocky reef, and San Diego’s biggest concentration of red urchin reefs and canopy gardens.
    • Permitted/Prohibited Uses: Take of all living marine resources is prohibited EXCEPT the recreational take of Pelagic finfish, including Pacific bonito, by hook-and-line only
    • A Recreational Guide to San Diego’s Underwater Parks – produced by WILDCOAST and CDFW
    • Fishing Guide to San Diego’s Marine Protected Areas – produced by WILDCOAST and CDFW

  • South La Jolla State Marine Reserve (SMR)
    • This area is bounded by the mean high tide line and straight lines connecting the following points in the order listed:
      32° 49.573' N. lat. 117° 16.781' W. long.;
      32° 49.573' N. lat. 117° 19.000' W. long.;
      32° 47.945' N. lat. 117° 19.000' W. long.; and
      32° 47.945' N. lat. 117° 15.495' W. long.
    • South La Jolla is the foundation of the area’s food web, and helps to seed surrounding waters with fish and invertebrates. La Jolla’s diverse habitats are home to spawning grunion, garibaldi, black sea bass and leopard sharks.
    • Permitted/Prohibited Uses: Take of all living marine resources is prohibited.
    • A Recreational Guide to San Diego’s Underwater Parks – produced by WILDCOAST and CDFW

This information does not replace the official regulatory language found in California Code of Regulations, Title 14, Section 632, including commercial allowances and restrictions.

  • A fishing license is required for any fishing.
  • All existing take regulations still apply in addition to the ones listed above.
  • Unless otherwise stated, all non-consumptive recreational activities are allowed.

Additional Resources:

For additional information on MPAs please visit the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s website: http://www.dfg.ca.gov/mlpa/

For resources related to MPAs, please visit the Marine Protected Areas Education and Outreach Initiative’s website: http://www.californiampas.org/