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 Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, there is one MPA, Famosa Slough State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA) No-Take.

  • Famosa Slough State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA) No-Take.
    • This area includes the waters below the mean high tide line within Famosa Slough estuary southward of the San Diego River channel, located at approximately 32° 45.43' N. lat. 117° 13.75' W. long.
    • Famosa Slough is a 30-acre marshy wetland that's a birdwatcher and wildlife watcher's delight. There is a variety of plant and animal life in this area. It varies depending on what time of day or year one visits. During low tide, many shorebirds and their chicks forage around on mud flats. During high tide, herons and egrets can be seen foraging as well as fiddler crabs. In the winter, many birds stop there during their migration. – Friends of Famosa Slough
    • Permitted/Prohibited Uses: Take of all living marine resources is prohibited.

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: