Marine Protected Areas

California Marine Protected Areas Logo

California is home to a network of 124 marine protected areas (MPAs) spread along the state's expansive 1,100-mile coastline. These special areas are strategically placed in a variety of marine ecosystems to protect or conserve marine life and habitat. Of these, there are 35 MPAs which are found adjacent to 42 coastal California State Parks which work in tandem to offer wildlife protection as well as fun places for the public to recreate.

California State Parks is proud to present our MPA Outreach and Education Project which connects students and members of the public to our state's marine protected areas. PORTS Program invites you and your students to dive into variety of virtual field trips and digital resources highlighting California's MPAs!

Explore our MPA PORTS Programs

Mysteries of the Deep: Discover the Underwater World of the North Coast

Marine Mammal Adaptations & Harbor Seals at MacKerricher State Park

Kelp Forests & Keystone Species at Van Damme State Beach

Fish Lifecycle & Marine Habitats of Monterey Bay

Marine Protected Areas & Plastic Pollution on the Central Coast

Explore the Gaviota Coast & Marine Plastic Pollution at Gaviota State Park

Tidepool Animal Adaptations at Crystal Cove State Park

Watershed Health & Jellyfish at San Elijo State Beach

Dive into MPA Educational Resources

Understanding California's Network of MPAs

California's marine protected areas (MPAs) are home to a breathtaking diversity of ocean and estuarine habitats and species. Watch Safeguarding an Underwater Wilderness, a video from California Department of Fish and Wildlife that explains how MPAs work, the resources they protect, and the people on the front lines working to make them a success.

Why Are Marine Protected Areas Important?

Scripps Oceanography marine ecologist Octavio Aburto is passionate about using science to support marine conservation. Learn about his work in Cabo Pulmo, a small marine reserve in Baja California Sur, Mexico, where conservation efforts have allowed fish to replenish and recover, benefiting the ocean environment and the local economy.

Dive into Point Lobos 3D Augmented Reality App

MPA Flipgrid Topics

MPA Coloring Book (Bilingual)

Discover MPAs - California Coastal Explorer Guide
(Bilingual)

MPA Learning Modules

These modules, developed by California State Parks and California Department of Fish and Wildlife, teach students about what MPAs are, why they were created, and how they are being monitored for progress. The modules align with both Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards. They are written at a 5th grade level, but are easily adaptable for students in grades 3-7.

Marine Protected Area PBL Units

These four Projected Based Learning (PBL) Units Highlight the animals and habitats found in Año Nuevo, Pyramid Point, Crystal Cove, and Point Lobos marine protected areas. The projects focus on students creating a public service announcement (PSA) about a marine conservation issue. These PBLs can be paired with our MPA Learning Modules and include rubrics, planning guides, and video clips.

My Underwater Park Poster & Coloring Sheet

MPA Activity Brochure for Kids

MPA Tidepool Journal

Marine Plastic Pollution Educational Resources

Kashia Pomo Tribal Traditions in the MPA

Indigenous peoples have sustainably harvested marine resources along the American west coast since time immemorial. This video shows how the Kashia Band of Pomo Indians are uniquely positioned through their long history, and traditional practices and values, to be an important partner in the recovery of California's coastal resources.

Tolowa Dee-ni' Nation Marine Protected Area

Visit the Pyramid Point State Marine Conservation Area and learn about how the coastal indigenous people of the Tolowa Dee-ni' Nation have been stewards of the ocean and everything in it since time immemorial. Learn about traditional fishing practices which are still used to sustainably harvest marine resources today and how tribes are working to monitor changes in our ocean.

Protecting the Coast with the Tolowa Dee-ni'

Today many California coastal ecosystems are under threat from human caused toxification of our oceans caused by industrial and residential development. Discover how the Tolowa Dee-ni’ are reviving traditional harvesting of shellfish such as mussels, and in the process, working with state agencies to monitor toxicity levels and redefine the human role in managing marine protected areas.

How the Tolowa Dee-ni' Inform Modern Marine Protection

Tribal members are working with state agencies to monitor the smelt population near the Oregon border and in the process are redefineing the human role in the management of marine protected areas.

How the Tolowa Dee-ni’ Study Ocean Toxicity

Near the Oregon border, the Tolowa Dee-ni’ are actively engaged in scientific research and conducting habitat assessments on declining smelt and mussel populations. When gathering mussels, they follow specific rules on the size and number to gather to ensure the species’ survival.

Digital Atlas of California Native Americans

Created at the California Department of Parks & Recreation with generous financial support from the DRAM Antitrust Settlement, the Digital Atlas of California Native Americans displays a collection of map layers related to the history and cultural heritage of Native Americans in California. Explore map layers that provide information on the 60 traditional cultural regions of California, natural resources traditionally used in different regions, and more.

California MPAs Brochure

MPA Habitats & Species Poster

Learn more about California's MPAs

Explore our National Marine Sanctuaries

Visit our YouTube Playlist of MPA Programs

PORTS Program has curated a YouTube playlist featuring recordings of many of our MPA PORTS Programs and Project Based Learning (PBL) resources. We also have ocean story time recordings for younger audiences.

Respect the Tidepools Sing Along

Join California State Parks MPA Interpreter Alex as she sings about ways we can respect California's tidepools. Get ready to sing and dance along to this catchy conservation tune!

Dive Underwater and Explore Your MPAs

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has curated a playlist of underwater videos highlighting the marine species and habitats protected by California's MPAs.

Additional Teaching Resources

Ocean Literacy Framework

Ocean Literacy K-12
NGSS Alignment

MPA Teacher Tool Kit Grades K-2

MPA Teacher Tool Kit Grades 3-5

MPA Lesson Plans
Grades 1-5

MPA Lesson Plans
Grades 6-8

MPA Lesson Plans
Grades 9-12

Our Undersea Legacy
MPA Curriculum
Grades 6-8

CDFW MPA Outreach & Education Guide

Communicating with the public and teaching students about California's MPA Network can be a big task. This helpful guide from California Department of Fish and Wildlife shares tips for messaging and key terms to help explain how and why our MPAs were created, how they work, and why they are important to all Californians.

CDFW's Interactive MPA Boundary Map

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Ocean Sport Fishing Interactive Web Map is designed to help you visualize where you are in relation to marine protected areas using your mobile phone. The app includes rules for each MPA and other sport fishing regulation boundaries.

CDFW's Blog: Exploring California's MPAs

Dive into the details! California Department of Fish and Wildlife's blog contains articles, photos, and videos highlighting many of California's marine protected areas. This is a great resource for middle and high school students researching specific MPAs.

California State Parks' Marine Protected Area Outreach & Education Project is funded by a grant from the California Ocean Protection Council.

If you have questions about PORTS marine life and marine protected area (MPA) programs,
please contact MPA Outreach and Education Project Coordinator, Erika Delemarre at Erika.Delemarre@parks.ca.gov.

360° Exploration of Van Damme State Beach

Are you ready for a bird's eye view of the Mendocino coastline in Northern California? Get ready to hover over the Van Damme State Marine Conservation Area and explore hidden sea caves!

360° Exploration of San Elijo State Beach & Cardiff State Beach

Are you ready for a bird's eye view of the San Diego coastline in Southern California? Get ready to hover over Swami's State Marine Conservation Area and explore how you are connected to the coastline!