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Program Background

The California legislature passed the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) in 1999, which directed the state to redesign California's system of marine protected areas (MPAs) to function as a statewide network to increase the coherence and effectiveness in protecting the state's marine life and habitats. Another important part of the MLPA mandated the scientific monitoring of California's MPA network to evaluate their effectiveness as a tool for conservation and inform adaptive management. In accordance with the MLPA, 29 MPAs were established along the Central California coast in 2007, from Pigeon Point to Point Conception. The Central Coast MPAs inaugurated the MLPA plan to establish MPAs along the 2,000 km coast of California, one region at a time, starting with the Central Coast (established in 2007), followed by the North Central Coast (in 2010), South Coast (2011), and North Coast (2012). In anticipation of the implementation of these MPAs, the California Collaborative Fisheries Program (CCFRP) was formally created in 2006 by Dr. Richard Starr from SJSU - Moss Landing Marine Laboratories and Dr. Dean Wendt from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in partnership with the fishing community, non-governmental organizations, and agency and academic scientists to develop protocols for monitoring MPAs in Central California using hook-and-line and trap fishing gear.


Dr. Richard Starr from Moss Landing Marine Laboratories

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Dr. Dean Wendt from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo

The CCFRP was built on many years of active collaborative research between anglers and scientists in both the Morro Bay and Moss Landing areas of Central California. During the planning stages of the program it was important to build an open process by including key stakeholders such as the fishing community, resource managers and agency and academic scientists in the process of collectively defining research questions and developing research protocols to assess the effectiveness of MPA closures on nearshore fish populations. Through countless workshops with key stakeholders, the CCFRP developed standardized hook-and-line and trap fishing protocols to survey Central California MPAs that incorporate fisherman knowledge and expertise within the confines of a scientifically sound sampling design.


After 10 years of successful MPA monitoring along the Central California coast, the CCFRP expanded their hook-and-line protocols statewide to survey MPAs all along the California coastline from Humboldt down to San Diego. Since 2017, CCFRP actively monitors 12 MPAs and corresponding reference sites across California's North, North-Central, Central, and South Monitoring Regions in partnership with 6 academic institutions (Cal Poly Humboldt, UC Davis - Bodega Marine Laboratory, SJSU - Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, UC Santa Barbara - Marine Science Institute, and UC San Diego -  Scripps Institution of Oceanography). The core MPAs surveyed by CCFRP in the North and North-Central Monitoring Region include South Cape Mendocino State Marine Reserve, Ten Mile State Marine Reserve, Stewart's Point State Marine Reserve, Bodega Head State Marine Reserve; Central Monitoring Region include Año Nuevo State Marine Reserve, Point Lobos State Marine Reserve, Piedras Blancas State Marine Reserve, Point Buchon State Marine Reserve; and South Monitoring Region 

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include Carrington Point State Marine Reserve, Anacapa Island State and Federal Marine Reserve and State and Federal Marine Conservation AreaSwami’s State Marine Conservation Area, and South La Jolla State Marine Reserve. Starting in 2019, Dr. Scott Hamilton from Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, SJSU and Dr. Ben Ruttenberg from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo took over leadership of the program.

From 2007 through 2021, the CCFRP has conducted close to 700 sampling trips, caught and released more than 190,000 fish from 96 different species, and tagged nearly 65,000 fishes. The CCFRP has generated estimates of relative abundance, length frequencies, biomass, diversity, community composition, and movements of fishes across the 16 MPAs and associated reference sites and contributed data to stock assessments of 9 different species. We've conduct extensive education and outreach to the angling community and have designed and deployed 2 socioeconomic surveys to gather diverse information including opinions of recreational fishermen about MPA performance, changes in sentiments towards MPAs following establishment, fisheries management, and attitudes towards conservation.

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