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California Marine Protected Area Collaborative

In 2012, California became the first state in the nation to implement a network of 124 marine protected areas (MPAs). These underwater parks aim to protect habitats, help recover species, and promote recreation, research, and education.

Our organization, the MPA Collaborative Network (The Network), exists to support local stewardship of California MPAs. The Network is made up of fourteen chapters, or Collaboratives, spanning the coast from Del Norte to San Diego County. Each Collaborative identifies local issues and engages it members to address ocean management needs in the areas of outreach and education, enforcement and compliance, and research and monitoring. The Collaboratives are made up of local government agencies, ocean businesses, non-profit organizations, aquaria, scientists, tribal members, and fishing representatives.

We are harnessing the power of these local communities to explore the ocean using the Trident ROVs. We will be learning, doing science, and educating as we go. Collaborative projects will focus on two main areas: 1) Outreach and education of California MPAs to varied audiences, and 2) Pilot projects involving citizen scientist and developing protocols to monitor MPAs.

How to participate

  1. Must be the leader of an active Open Explorer Expedition (Start one here).
  2. User account has Facebook verification (Check here).
  3. Send an email to

Initiative Sponsors

Open Explorer Initiatives are made possible by a variety of partners, both foundations and companies. If your organization would like to get involved, please email us at

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, established in 2000, seeks to advance environmental conservation, scientific research, and improve the quality of life in the San Francisco Bay Area. For more information, please visit or follow @MooreScientific

Discover one of our Expeditions


Through subtidal survey we are surveying key eelgrass (Zostera marina) habitat in distinct areas of the San Francisco Bay, critical for many species of invertebrates, fish and marine animals. Applying data acquired by LIDAR and direct survey we will evaluate changes in densities of eelgrass densities and direct impact as a measure of benthic health and changes in Bay and ocean conditions. A combined public outreach and education project with the National Park Service and Romberg Tiburon Center will help communicate the importance of benthic ecosystems in the Bay, and better understand elasmobranch natural history and movements inside the estuary.

David McGuire Short bio here

We are planning to use the ROV to locate and recover lost fishing and research gear from the ocean bottom at the Redfish Rocks Marine Reserve on the south coast of Oregon.

San Luis Obispo Coast District - CA State Parks @SLOCoastSP has featured 18 recent Periscope broadcasts in the last three months and currently has 425 Followers. The last on the water broadcast in Morro Bay SMRMA by kayak was featured by Twitter and had over 37,000 viewers. The broadcasts cover the values of the MPAs and promote community engagement. Broadcasts on black oystercatchers, seabirds, sea otters, tidepools and more have highlighted the value of MPAs, how to respectfully observe wildlife and recreate in MPAs, and simple actions you can take anywhere in the world to protect the ocean. Experts on seabirds, sea otters, underwater sanctuaries have been interviewed. Recently 9 different MPAs contributed to a Floatscope @CaliforniaStateParks that followed the stories of the MPAs from Del Norte Coast all the way down to San Diego stopping in each region to visit the MPA and learn about the value during WorldOceansDay, #floatscope. The social media team has a strong desire to show more than just the surface of the amazing MPAs, using a Trident will give access to the true stars of the underwater realm and allow us to feature the amazing partners such as the Morro Bay National Estuary Program, Central Coast Aquarium, SLO CoastKeeper, and many more that take an active part in the monitoring, restoration, education, and outreach of the SLO County MPAs.

There is mounting evidence that Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) increase the health and abundance of key marine species. MPAs are therefore considered to be one of the best ways to safeguard the health of coastal ecosystems. Maintaining MPAs, however, and expanding marine protections to new regions, requires dedicated conservation and enforcement efforts. These efforts require a substantial amount of ongoing monitoring and data. Our coastlines are changing. Living along an urban ocean makes it especially critical to engage the public in understanding the roles we play in ocean conservation. In partnership with citizen scientists, we have begun intertidal monitoring, looking specifically at identifying populations and looking at how they are changing over time due to climate change and other factors. Pelican Cove on the Palos Verdes Peninsula and Blue Cavern at Catalina Island were both established as MPAs in 2012. At Pelican Cove we have coordinated and continue to establish a biodiversity index as part of the MPA “Snap the Coast” snapshot using iNaturalist. The research at Catalina Island Blue Cavern MPA has been more extensive involving citizen scientists with iNaturalist to develop a biodiversity index and in completing transects using a modified LiMPETS protocol, but we have been limited in engaging citizen scientists primary due to lack of access to the subtidal. We need to monitor subtidal communities if we are going to understand the entire picture (to see if species are moving to deeper zones). These needs would most efficiently be met using two OpenROV Tridents (one on the mainland and one on the island). A significant goal of this project is to engage the community in our efforts through citizen science. Engaging participants of all ages is a wonderful way to connect them with the ocean, conservation, science and Marine Protect Areas. Currently, we collaborate with citizen scientists made up of community volunteers, Earthwatch, Aquarium of the Pacific, Los Angeles and Catalina MPA Collaboratives and Terranea on these two projects as well as several researchers. With two OpenROV Tridents, we will expand the capacity to collect data for analysis by the volunteer community and provide participants resources to share in outreaching about the importance of MPAs and the impacts of sea level rise, ocean acidification and temperature change on range changes with both native and invasive species. If we are successful, we hope these tools and approaches will be able to be used all along the coastline as part of the California MPA collaboratives.