The MPA Collaborative Network has recently formed an Estuary Working Group (EWG) in response to expressed compliance concerns that illustrated a need to dedicate more attention and resources to estuarine MPAs. This group is still growing with lots of direct outreach and sharing through Collaborative co-chairs and partners. The goal of the EWG is to facilitate conversations about estuaries that include or are adjacent to a state designated MPA and to ultimately address compliance issues with education and stakeholder engagement.

Here’s some more detail about our EWG:

The statewide EWG will be a subcommittee nested within the greater structure of the MPA Collaborative Network. The EWG will serve as a framework for sharing information and resources, connecting stakeholders, and discussing issues unique to estuarian MPAs. The EWG complements the Central Coast Wetlands Group (a research and monitoring consortium dedicated to coordinating the advancement of wetland science and management in California) by focusing on enforcement and compliance and education and outreach regarding estuarian MPAs by bringing together stakeholders with vested interest and expertise.

We have also compiled a list of 30 estuarine (see below) MPAs in California, or MPAs that overlap entirely with an estuary (e.g. lagoons, rivers, estuaries/esteros). Some examples of estuarine MPAs include San Elijo Lagoon in San Diego, Elkhorn Slough in Monterey, and the historical MPAs in San Francisco Bay.

In October 2020, we held an EWG virtual meeting where the Central Coast Wetlands Group (CCWG) presented their work. They provided an overview of their estuarine MPAs statewide project, funded by the Ocean Protection Council (OPC), to improve the long-term research and monitoring with standardized protocols and ultimately to improve management of estuary MPAs. Our upcoming meeting in early 2021 will include a discussion of compliance concerns unique to estuarian MPAs identified by stakeholders and community members during the MPA Community Compliance Forums held in each coastal county. This discussion will also include estuarine MPA enforcement data shared by allied agency partners.

We continue to expand the membership of the EWG. If you or someone you know should be involved, please reach out to to learn more and/or be added to the EWG mailing list!

Estero Americano State Marine Recreational Management Area

Estero Americano State Marine Recreational Management Area (SMRMA). County lines split this river down the middle; Sonoma and Marin counties share jurisdiction. Photo: Calla Allison, Director, MPA Collaborative Network.

A List of Estuarine MPAs, North to South


  • South Humboldt Bay State Marine Recreational Management Area (SMRMA)


  • Ten Mile Estuary State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA)
  • Big River Estuary SMCA
  • Navarro River Estuary SMCA


  • Russian River SMRMA
  • Estero Americano SMRMA (also in Marin County)


  • Drakes Estero SMCA
  • Estero de Limantour State Marine Reserve (SMR)
  • Estero de San Antonio SMRMA

San Francisco Bay

  • Corte Madera Marsh SMP (Marin)
  • Marin Islands SMP (Marin)
  • Fagan Marsh SMP (Napa)
  • Peytonia Slough SMP (Solano)
  • Albany Mudflats SMP (Alameda)
  • Robert W. Crown SMCA (Alameda)
  • Redwood Shores SMP (San Mateo)
  • Bair Island SMP (San Mateo)


  • Elkhorn Slough SMCA
  • Elkhorn Slough SMR
  • Moro Cojo Slough SMR

San Luis Obispo

  • Piedras Blancas SMR* (* in CCWG study sites)
  • Morro Bay SMRMA
  • Morro Bay SMR

Santa Barbara

  • Goleta Slough SMCA (No-Take)

Orange County

  • Bolsa Bay SMCA
  • Bolsa Chica Basin SMCA (No-Take)
  • Upper Newport Bay SMCA

San Diego

  • Batiquitos Lagoon SMCA (No-Take)
  • San Elijo Lagoon SMCA (No-Take)
  • San Dieguito Lagoon SMCA
  • Famosa Slough SMCA (No-Take)