Interpretive sign at
Pigeon Point Light Station SHP.

There are three contiguous National Marine Sanctuaries along the central California Coast. They are the Greater Farallones NMS, Cordell Bank NMS, and Monterey Bay NMS. These extend from Point Arena in Mendocino County south to Cambria in San Luis Obispo County. The coast of San Mateo County from Devil’s Slide to its border with Santa Cruz County forms a boundary of the Monterey Bay NMS.

The State of California also plays a part in marine protection. Contained wholly within these national sanctuaries are smaller areas, with additional restrictions, administered by California’s Department of Fish and Game. State Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) were created in 1999 by the Marine Life Protection Act to safeguard the long-term health of California's marine life.

MPAs protect the diversity and abundance of marine life, the habitats they depend on, and the integrity of marine ecosystems. MPAs contribute to healthier, more resilient ocean ecosystems that can better withstand a wide range of impacts such as pollution and climate change. By protecting entire ecosystems rather than focusing on a single species, MPAs are powerful tools for conserving and restoring ocean biodiversity and for protecting cultural resources.

The Marine Life Protection Act recognizes that different MPAs with varying levels of allowed activities and protections are advisable to balance the goals of conserving biological diversity, providing a sanctuary for marine life, and enhancing recreational and educational opportunities.

Detail inset for local SMR and SMCAs

There are two types of MPAs along the coast of San Mateo County. A State Marine Reserve (SMR) designation prohibits damage or taking of any marine resources (living, geologic, or cultural) including recreational and commercial take. A State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA) designation may allow some recreational and/or commercial take of marine resources (restrictions vary).

In the two SMRs on the San Mateo County coast—Montara SMR and Año Nuevo SMR—all take of fish or other resources is prohibited.

In the Greyhound Rock SMCA south of Año Nuevo, recreational and some commercial take of seaweed, squid, and salmon are allowed. Catching fin fish from the beaches with hook and line is also allowed.

In the Pillar Point SMCA, allowed uses are recreational take of finfish by trolling, of Dungeness crab by trap, and of market squid by hand-held dip net. Also allowed are commercial take of finfish with troll fishing gear or seine, of Dungeness crab by trap, and of market squid by round haul net.

Please help us protect our ocean resources by following these rules when visiting these MPAs.

Interpretive signs at Año Nuevo State Park  and Montara State Beach.  Photo: CSPA Archive