Marine Protected Areas, MPA Watch
& Marin MPA Watch Volunteer Program

Training dates and registration below

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

Marine Protected Areas

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 (marine reserves, conservation areas, and parks) with varied amounts of allowed activities and protections 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.

A 2017 poll by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) on Californians and the Environment found:

  • 95% say condition of the coast is important to the economy and quality of life in CA
  • 93% say condition of the coast is personally important to them
  • Support for oil drilling at record low (only 25% support) and has fallen by 11 percentage points since July 2016.
  • In contrast, 73% of Californians are in favor of wind power and wave energy projects off the state’s coast, while 19% are opposed.
  • 78% support going to 100% renewables by 2045.

The PPIC poll includes a specific MPA question for the first time since 2006 poll. Note that 2006 was prior to adoption of new MPAs under the MLPA Initiative. In 2006, total support for MPAs was already very high at 75%.

The poll released recently asked the following question:

"Next, Marine Protected Areas, or MPAs, are managed by the California State Fish and Game Commission to protect fish, wildlife, and their habitat in coastal waters. Do you think it is very important, somewhat important, not too important, or not important at all that California has Marine Protected Areas?"

  • 77% very important
  • 18% somewhat important
  • 2% not too important
  • 1% not important at all

A total of 95% of those polled responded that MPAs are important to California – a full 20 point increase over 2006. And a testament to all the great work being done by Marin MPA Watch and other organizations to promote and steward California’s MPA network. Please share these results far and wide with your networks.

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

MPA Watch & Marin MPA Watch Volunteer Program

The MPA Watch program:

  • is a citizen science program
  • trains volunteers to collect scientific data on consumptive and non-consumptive coastal and marine resource use by ocean users using specific protocols and a survey. Surveys are observational only, and collect human activities in and outside of MPAs, such as surfing, kayaking, fishing, boating, running, etc., with the intention of improving our understanding of how people are using our statewide MPAs. 
  • informs MPA management and supports the California Department of Fish and Wildlife

The California MPA Watch program is implemented by ten different organizations throughout the state. The Marin MPA Watch Volunteer Program is managed by the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin (EAC), and in collaboration with the California Academy of Sciences, and Point Reyes National Seashore. The Marin MPA Watch focuses their efforts at Agate County Beach, Corte Madera Marsh, Drakes Beach, Drakes Estero, Point Resistance, and the Point Reyes Headlands.

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.

Upcoming Trainings Dates Coming soon

Once trained, the volunteer will choose 1-2 days a month to conduct a survey on a specific beach for up to three months. Surveys are only observational. No public interaction necessary or required. Great volunteer opportunity for individuals, friends or families with children 10 and older. 

Volunteer Description (click)


  • Must be 18 year of age or older, or accompanied by a guardian, and sign our liability and photo release form
  • Ability to attend an Marin MPA Watch training at each MPA site they are interested in helping to survey
  • Love walking on the beach and being outside, and physically able to walk 2-5 miles on the beach
  • Able to complete 1-2 surveys per month over the course of three months, and mail back your surveys for the official register
  • (Optional) Use iNaturalist App to record what you see on the beach, take pictures and share them for our media team, collect beach trash and make art to create awareness!


  • A free, MPA reusable water bottle!
  • Healthy recreation that gets you outside exercising your mind and muscles! 
  • Collection of long-term citizen science data for our MPAs.
  • Invitation to the annual Point Reyes National Seashore volunteer appreciation event at Point Reyes typically held the third Friday in July across from the Bear Valley Visitor Center.
  • Invitations to EAC special events.