Marine Protected Areas

Marine protected areas foster vibrant, healthy ocean habitats.

In the United States, more than 10 percent of our land has been reserved as protected parks, wildlife refuges and wilderness areas, but the same level of care has yet to be given to our ocean, where less than 1 percent is protected.

Underwater parks, called marine protected areas, strongly improve our ocean’s health.

Take fish, for example: Studies show that these areas allow fish to grow larger, stay healthier and reach greater abundance and diversity.

Fish thrive in these protected areas, then move out into other parts of the ocean and replenish weaker populations. This not only makes a difference for the fish, but for the people and wildlife that depend on healthy fish for their survival. Studies also show that underwater parks are more resilient in the face of threats and hold up even in the face of disaster.

For more than two decades, Ocean Conservancy has been working to create these refuges where the ocean’s most extraordinary creatures can recover and thrive

  • In Florida, we helped establish the Tortugas Ecological Reserve where depleted lobsters and reef fish are now showing signs of recovery.

California's History-making Marine Life Protection Act

In California, Ocean Conservancy worked steadfastly to help pass the landmark Marine Life Protection Act in 1999. It’s the first state law in the country requiring the establishment of a science-based, statewide system of marine protected areas.

The goal: To conserve key habitats and ocean wildlife off the California coast to support overall ocean health. For more than a decade, Ocean Conservancy helped design this visionary network by collaborating with everyone from fishermen to divers to scientists. And our hard work has paid off: The landmark network was completed in 2012.

These marine protected areas foster vibrant, healthy ocean habitats. They’ll help restore California’s fisheries, which in turn will help provide jobs and healthy, delicious dinners for seafood lovers.

Millions of people will visit these special places to enjoy their favorite coastal activities —including wildlife-watching,  surfing, diving,  kayaking and tide-pooling. In turn, their visits will benefit the local economy.

Scientific monitoring shows that a network of protected areas in the Channel Islands is already resulting in improved biodiversity and ocean health just a decade after protection.

Supporters like you have helped facilitate this incredible network that is boosting the health of California’s coastal waters but our work is far from done. We need to monitor these established marine protected areas, and and continue to protect valuable ocean habitat in other parts of the country.

Support our work to create the critical marine protected areas that protect our ocean’s health and the creatures that call it home.


California’s Marine Protected Areas

124 underwater parks, countless ways to have fun.

New Underwater Parks Protect the California Coast

The parks, called marine protected areas, protect some of the ocean’s most extraordinary places, allowing ocean life to thrive.

Top 10 Dive Sites in California's Underwater Park

Dive into these underwater parks to enjoy the beauty and bounty of marine protected areas.

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