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 (

In the waters adjacent to the Point Sur State Historic Park there are two MPAs, Point Sur State Marine Reserve (SMR) and Point Sur State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA)

  • Point Sur State Marine Reserve (SMR)
    • Extends from Point Sur in the north to Cooper Point in the south.
    • The Ohlone, Esselen and Salinan, lived along this stretch of coastline leading a nomadic, hunter-gatherer existence for thousands of years. Here, they took advantage of the abundance of marine life harvesting rich stocks of mussels, abalone and fishes.
    • Marine mammals such as sea otters, sea lions and harbor seals find shelter along the shore. It is here along Point Sur that the sea otter was “rediscovered” in the 1930s. Gray whales, humpback whales and even blue whales migrate past Point Sur each year.
    • Permitted/Prohibited Uses: No fishing. All take of living marine resources is prohibited.

  • Point Sur 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 except where noted:
      36° 18.40’ N. lat. 121° 56.00’ W. long.;
      36° 18.40’ N. lat. 121° 58.33’ W. long.;
      thence southward along the three nautical mile offshore boundary to
      36° 15.00’ N. lat. 121° 55.10’ W. long.;
      36° 15.00’ N. lat. 121° 52.50’ W. long.; and
      36° 18.40’ N. lat. 121° 56.00’ W. long.
    • Off this remote stretch of coastal highway, underwater canyons and submerged mountain ridges shape the ocean floor. These topographical wonders create conditions for marine life to thrive. Here ocean currents bring nutrient-rich waters closer to shore, and fish, sea birds and invertebrates flourish.
    • Many species of fish live in the rocky tidepools, kelp forests, sandy bottoms and deep canyons off Point Sur. Cabezon, vermillion rockfish and blue rockfish hide among the kelp, while mola mola may be found basking on the surface offshore.
    • Permitted/Prohibited Uses: No take except for salmon and albacore fishing.

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:

For resources related to MPAs, please visit the Marine Protected Areas Education and Outreach Initiative's website: