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July 16, 2015


Join us for San Diego County's MPA Watch Program
MPA Watch Field Training at the Tijuana River Mouth State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA)

San Diego County’s Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) need strong community support in order to ensure their success. If you like to walk on the beach, people watch, and are interested in supporting marine conservation, then this is the perfect volunteer activity for you! 

Join WiLDCOAST’s citizen-science data collection program called “MPA Watch” to be part of the long-term success of the eleven MPAs in San Diego County.  

MPA Watch Volunteer Requirements

·       Volunteers must be at least 15 years of age. Younger than 15 need to be accompanied by an adult while conducting surveys. 

·       Ability to hike outdoors at the beach for about 1.5 hours

·       All volunteers must give at least a 3 to 4 month commitment, ideally completing 2-4 surveys a month in the field. Once trained, volunteer monitoring times are flexible

·       Volunteers must be trained by our staff. You can either attend a scheduled training or contact us directly for a one-one training.  

What is MPA Watch?

MPA Watch is a citizen science data collection program designed to better understand how people are using their new MPAs. Volunteers will be trained to collect valuable data on ocean users and their activities, such as surfing, kayaking, fishing, boating, running, etc.  These surveys will allow us to better understand how people are using the MPAs, and we will also evaluate compliance with the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (DFW) policies and regulations.  This data will also help us to understand where there may be a need for enhanced education and outreach, signage, and law enforcement.   

Please note that we are not asking any MPA Watch volunteers to police any of the ocean users, rather just to observe and record beach and ocean activity taking place during their data collection walk.

We are currently surveying the Tijuana River Mouth MPA in Imperial Beach, the Matlahuayl and San Diego-Scripps MPAs in La Jolla and Swami's MPA in Encinitas. 


What is a Marine Protected Area (MPA)?

MPAs are marine or estuarine waters set aside primarily to protect and conserve marine life, and its associated habitat. MPAs have varying levels of protections and allowed uses, from “no-take” zones to those that allow some forms of fishing. Just as parks on land protect special lands and wildlife from overdevelopment and hunting, these underwater parks preserve California’s stunning marine ecosystems for future generations to observe and enjoy.     

Who enforces MPAs? 

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) is the agency charged with management and enforcement of MPA regulations.  To report any illegal activities, such as poaching, harassment of animals, or pollution in the MPAs, call 1-888-DFG-CALTIP (888-334-2258). You can also notify your local lifeguards.

Why is it important to record user (non-consumptive) data?

The data we collect will be both for consumptive uses (e.g. recreational and commercial on-shore and off-shore fishing) and non-consumptive uses (e.g. surfing, sun-bathing, walking on the beach, scuba diving, kayaking, etc.) This data will help us to analyze trends within the boundaries of San Diego’s MPAs, and outside of the boundaries, since data will also be collected at nearby sites outside of the MPAs. Marine recreational activities are encouraged in all of San Diego’s MPAs since these special places were chosen for their high ecological and biological importance, and people should enjoy the environment. 

Why monitor MPAs?

The California Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) requires the state to design and manage an improved network of Marine Protected Areas. The MLPA also requires monitoring to ensure that the MPA network meets the goals of the MLPA to facilitate adaptive management of the MPAs, and to improve understanding of marine systems. Monitoring MPAs when they are newly established will provide a description, assessment, and understanding of ecological and socioeconomic conditions inside and outside MPAs designated under the MLPA.

What is citizen-science?

Citizen-science is research conducted by trained volunteers (the general public) that are interested in science, monitoring, and conservation of the marine environment.  You do not need any scientific background to collect data for these surveys.

WiLDCOAST is an international conservation group that conserves coastal and marine ecosystems and wildlife. Since 2008 WiLDCOAST has been at the forth front of the Marine Life Protection Act helping in the creation and adoption of Southern California’s new MPAs.  Since the establishment of the MPAs on January 1s, 2012, WiLDCOAST has been working to educate San Diego residents and visitors about the new MPA network and providing opportunities to participate in stewardship actions.

If you have any questions about the program and/or training please contact Coastal Coordinator Cory Pukini at