Project: Threats to California’s Marine Protected Areas

Assessing threats of human activities to marine protected areas and identifying existing laws and policies available to address those threats.

The Center for Ocean Solutions is working in partnership with Resources Legacy Fund to assess threats of human activities on MPAs and analyze existing laws and policies available to address various threats. Program Lead Rebecca Martone and Early Career Fellows Megan Mach and Lisa Wedding are leading the scientific assessment of threats to MPAs (from climate, land, and ocean based activities), in collaboration with Mary Gleason at The Nature Conservancy, by summarizing non-fishing threats to MPAs on the California coast by MLPA region, using the California Current cumulative impacts model (Halpern et al. 2009). The results of this work will identify what human activities or threats still need to be accounted for in the cumulative impact model, and what data would improve the model to support an increased understanding of overlapping impacts to MPAs.

To understand whether current laws and policies address various threats to MPAs, the Center is conducting legal and policy analyses on three of the primary threats facing California’s protected areas. Early Career Fellow Molly Melius and Policy and Education Manager Ashley Erickson are identifying strategies for addressing cumulative impacts and Research Analyst Lindley Mease is working with Executive Director Meg Caldwell to distill strategies for addressing ocean acidification. Early Career Fellow Sarah Reiter and Summer Legal Intern Angela Warner are working collaboratively with Sarah Newkirk from The Nature Conservancy to advance laws that address the threats of sea-level rise. These law and policy teams identified “ideal” and existing strategies for addressing each of these threats. Our results will guide strategies for reducing threats to California nearshore ecosystems and inform state-level marine-initiative funding over the next 5-10 years.

A cruise ship anchored near Monterey Harbor in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.  Photo Credit: Sara Worden.