Coastal Resource Protection
One of our main programs is protection of our unique waters and resources along Marin's coastal zone, which is defined by the California Coastal Act and generally extends inland 1,000 yards from the mean high tide line of the sea. This zone is essential to support healthy marine life.
Coastal zones, marine ecosystems and the species that flourish within them have incredible value — both to natural functions such as climate change mitigation and to the coastal communities that depend on them. Billions of people depend on the ocean for their food, livelihoods and recreational opportunities. The marine life that provide it — whether it’s fish to eat or whale watching trips that fuel the economy — these areas must be managed carefully and sustainably.
California's coast and ocean are among our most treasured resources. The need to safeguard the long-term health of California's marine life was recognized by the California Legislature in 1999 with the passage of the Marine Life Protection Act. This Act aims to protect California’s marine natural heritage through establishing a statewide network of marine protected areas (MPAs) designed, created, and managed using sound science and stakeholder input.
MPAs protect the diversity and abundance of marine life, the habitats they depend on, and the integrity of marine ecosystems. The Marine Life Protection Act recognizes that a combination of MPAs with varied amounts of allowed activities and protections (marine reserves, marine conservation areas, and marine parks) can help conserve biological diversity, provide a sanctuary for marine life, and enhance recreational and educational opportunities. MPAs can also provide scientific reference points to assist with resource management decisions, and protect a variety of marine habitats, communities, and ecosystems for their economic and intrinsic value, for generations to come.
In California we have 124 MPAs, which makes up 16 percent of the California coastal zone. In these MPAs, all human activities — from large-scale shipping to small-scale fishing — are regulated.
In Marin County, our coastal zone covers approximately 82,168 acres of county land. Of this total, approximately 33,913 acres are owned and managed by the federal government (National Park Service). This leaves 48,255 acres of the coastal zone under county jurisdiction. The Marin County coastal zone consists of wetlands, lagoons, seagrass beds, reefs, and shallow bays which serve as nurseries or feeding areas for a variety of species. These areas have some of the most abundant biodiversity and endemism in the world. In addition, the coastal zone around Marin County is protected by marine sanctuaries (Cordell Bank/Greater Farallones), and marine protected areas.
Some of our prior coastal resource successes have included:
- watershed protections for the Estero Americano and Estero de San Antonio from land use development and sewage waste
- securing Tomales Bay as a RAMSAR site, or wetland of international significance
- a 40-year campaign to Honor Thy Dunes: Tomales Bay Dune Protection at Lawson's Landing
- the jet skis ban in the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary and Tomales Bay
- wilderness protection in Point Reyes National Seashore's Drakes Bay/Estero
On-going work includes working with partners on best management practices for Healthy Tomales Bay, marine debris issues, climate change, participating in the working groups, which helped develop the Sonoma-Marin Coastal Regional Sediment Management Report (CRSMR), stewardship activities and more.