The State of the California North Central Coast

By Dina Liebowitz, Associate Scientist, California Ocean Science Trust

Ocean Science Trust, in partnership with the Department of Fish and Wildlife and Ocean Protection Council, recently released the State of the California North Central Coast.

This “State of the Region” report represents the culmination of baseline monitoring in the region that began in 2010, and brings together information about water quality, fish and wildlife, and fishing and recreational uses in and around marine protected areas (MPAs), for the most comprehensive snapshot of the North Central Coast to date.

California’s North Central Coast extends 470 miles along the coastline, from Alder Creek just north of Point Arena, down to Pigeon Point, and includes the state waters surrounding the Farallon Islands. The region’s ecosystems, including sandy beaches, headlands, kelp forests and rocky reefs, support thousands of species, including marine mammals, seabirds, fishes, invertebrates, and marine algae.

This region is among the most biologically productive marine areas in the world, due in part to the upwelling of cold, nutrient-rich water. Major commercial fisheries in the area include Dungeness crab, salmon, rockfish, California halibut, and sea urchin. Recreational opportunities abound, from fishing red abalone, rockfish and salmon, to kayaking, wildlife watching, and tidepooling.

More than 800 sites were monitored to inform the State of the Region report, from the kelp forests of Bodega Bay, to the beaches of Half Moon Bay, and the rocky reefs and sea stacks around the Farallon Islands. Over twenty partner groups contributed to data collection, ranging from university scientists to elementary school students and volunteer divers. Many of the folks involved in North Central Coast baseline monitoring are actively engaged in local MPA Collaboratives based in the region, including Mendocino, Sonoma, Golden Gate, and San Mateo.

The report, together with data sets, technical reports, integration projects, and outreach products, provides a valuable suite of information and data that can help inform and be used by the local ocean community, including decision makers, citizen scientists, and interested members of the public. In an effort to share the results of MPA monitoring more broadly, late last year Ocean Science Trust hosted a series of community gatherings throughout the region. A huge thank you to all MPA Collaborative members who joined us!

On April 13, Ocean Science Trust will present the State of the Region report and other related materials to the California Fish and Game Commission. This presentation will support science-informed management of the region’s MPAs, as part of a joint presentation with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife for the Five-Year Management Review of the North Central Coast.

In addition to viewing the full report, be sure to check out the 2-page key findings summary available on