Underwater Parks Day is a celebration created with the purpose of educating people about the importance of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). It is celebrated on different days throughout January up and down the California coast.
So what are MPAs and why celebrate them? In 2012, California became an international leader in ocean conservation by completing the first statewide network of MPAs in the United States. The network of 124 MPAs protects 16 percent of California’s waters, provides a series of refuges for ocean creatures to recover and thrive, and gives residents and tourists places to dive, surf and enjoy the benefits of a healthy coastal community.
The network was completed with the addition of the North Coast region. This region was established by a unified proposal, meaning all stakeholder groups came to consensus to decide where to locate MPAs and what associated regulations would be. In our North Coast region we have 20 MPAs and seven special closures from the Oregon border to the Sonoma county border, protecting approximately 137 square miles and 13 percent of northern California’s state waters.
Following implementation of the MPA network, the California Ocean Protection Council allocated $4 million to fund baseline monitoring inside and outside of MPAs in the region. This research is the first step in MPA monitoring, as it establishes a benchmark of ecological and socioeconomic conditions in order to document any changes in the region in the first few years following MPA implementation. On the North Coast, MPA baseline research is currently being wrapped up, and results will be presented to the public in 2017/18.