California Marine Protected Areas, Golden Gate MPA Collaborative & Marin MPA Watch Volunteer Program

...for me there really is just one Hope Spot – it’s the ocean.
— Sylvia Earle, marine biologist, explorer, author, and lecturer

California's coast and ocean are among our most treasured resources. The productivity, wildness, and beauty found here is central to California's identity, heritage, and economy. 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.

The Environmental Action Committee of West Marin (EAC) is a partner of The Golden Gate MPA Collaborative.

In partnership with the California Academy of Sciences, and Point Reyes National Seashore, the EAC manages the Marin MPA Watch Volunteer Program, which oversees and records human activities within our network of California MPAs. The Marin MPA Watch focuses their efforts primarily at Point Reyes National Seashore (Limantour Beach and Drakes Estero and Beach areas), and Agate County Beach in Bolinas. We also monitor Corte Madera Marsh. 

The data collected by Marin MPA Watch acts as a compliment to the biological surveys of MPAs throughout the state.  The data provides information on how human beings are using our MPAs and assists in informing agencies, organizations, and local communities about the success and health of their MPAs. Additionally, the program aims to involve local communities in learning about marine and coastal resources, and to inspire and empower ocean stewardship through education, trainings and volunteerism.

Volunteers are always needed to monitor sites. Once trained, the volunteer will choose 2-4 days a month to conduct a survey on a specific beach. There is no interaction necessary or required to do a survey. Volunteers are only monitoring for what types of human activities are occurring. Volunteers must attend a training for each beach they are interested in monitoring. Our trainings are typically held on weekends. 

If you are interested in signing up for the MPA Watch program, use the calendar below to find upcoming training dates, and use the form below to RSVP. 




Volunteers use standardized protocols (paper survey) to collect relevant, scientifically rigorous, and broadly accessible data. The MPA Watch volunteers will observe and record both consumptive and non-consumptive offshore and onshore activities in and around MPAs, which will improve our understanding of how people are using these new MPAs. Data is meant to inform the management, enforcement, and science of California's marine protected areas, and allows us to track how the public uses coastal areas. These surveys are then uploaded electronically. 

By involving local communities in this MPA monitoring, MPA Watch programs inspire and empower stewardship, and educate the public about California’s ocean ecosystems.

Not only do local volunteers learn about their coastal environment and become "citizen scientists" and stewards of the area, but they generate quantities of monitoring data that would not be possible under the current state budget. 

The data collected helps us to analyze trends within the boundaries of MPAs, as well as outside of the boundaries, which are used as control sites. Control sites are beneficial in comparing human use in MPAs versus at sites that are not protected.

© Marc Detraz

© Marc Detraz


Interns at CM Marsh May 2016.jpg

GET INVOLVED - Summer Internships

Our program is not possible without the commitment of our dedicated interns and volunteers. We typically host a number of spring and summer interns who lead trainings, provide educational and interpretive talks, assist in outreach, recruitment, and marketing, and help monitor our current MPAs. If you are interested in learning more, contact us.

Complete the below form to sign up as a MPA Watch Volunteer. Please list what dates and locations who would like to train at. once training is complete we will ask you to schedule 2-4 days per month with us. 

Name *
Address *