San Francisco Surfrider Foundation

Marine Protected Areas

In 2012, California became the first state in the nation to establish a network of marine protected areas (MPAs).

Similar to national parks and forests on land – to protect and restore ocean habitats, and increase the health, productivity and resilience of ocean ecosystems.

This resulted from 1999’s California Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) For the implementation phase of the MLPA, California’s 1,100-mile coastline was divided into five regions. In each region, local stakeholders, scientists and policy experts worked together to decide how best to create that area’s MPAs, ultimately creating over 120 underwater refuges along California’s coast from the Oregon border to Mexico. Surfrider Foundation was an integral part of the process throughout.

The Surfrider Foundation works to protect our ocean and address the dangers to it, today and in the future. Our Ocean Protection Initiative includes grassroots campaigns to establish and support Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), oppose new offshore oil drilling and seismic testing, participate in regional ocean planning, and ensure renewable ocean energy does not damage our ocean.

Our ocean faces growing challenges from pollution, habitat loss, development, and climate change. If that wasn’t enough, expanding industries such as offshore oil drilling, renewable energy, shipping, and aquaculture threaten to crowd our oceans and degrade the health of the ecosystem.

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) function as safe havens for marine life, where the ocean can rebuild and restore itself. Marine Protected Areas help marine ecosystems withstand the impacts of pollution, development, over fishing and climate change. Surfrider Foundation engages in both the planning and implementation of MPAs and fully protected marine reserves around the country.

Marine protected areas protect some of the best surfing spots in the country, from the California coast to the Hawaiian Islands and from the Florida Keys to Oregon.  These underwater parks enhance the overall experience of a variety of coastline activities by protecting biodiversity, wildlife abundance, and scenic view-sheds.  Thriving protected areas provide a richer environment for kayaking, diving, tide-pooling and birdwatching. 

Ocean-lovers from all walks of life came together to create marine protected areas because MPAs have been proven to enhance the resilience of ocean ecosystems to withstand cumulative impacts of human and natural stressors (e.g., pollution, coastal development, fishing pressure, climate change, etc.).  Experience from around the world shows that the success of MPAs depends in part on local understanding and support for the designation. By providing outreach to ocean users and engaging citizens in planning and stewardship efforts, Surfrider chapters play an important role in ensuring the long-term success of these designations.