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MPA Leadership Team Releases Work Plan for 2021-2025

The Marine Protected Area work plan outlines a set of goals for California’s 124 MPA’s in the coming years.

SACRAMENTO一 The Marine Protected Area Statewide Leadership Team released the 2021-2025 work plan with an organized guide of goals for California’s 124 Marine Protected Areas.

The plan is tailored to the work of the leadership team, a collective group made up of state and federal agencies, representatives from native tribes, and representatives from various non-profit organizations and other stakeholders across the state who provide input and consensus on the needs of MPAs.

“That is what the work plan does,” said Tova Handelman, California Ocean Protection Council Senior Marine Protected Areas Program Manager. “It provides the plan for the MPA statewide leadership team to work across all the different interests and jurisdictions and values that all the specific leadership team members have.”

The tasks in the plan revolve around four main priorities for the MPA management program.

“The MPA management program was set up with four main priorities,” said Handelman. “Those priorities were informed by MPA science across the world. Scientists have looked at what makes a successful MPA or a successful MPA network, and it basically comes down to these four main priorities.”

The four focal points for the plan are:


Outreach and Education: Raise awareness of the ecological,

socioeconomic, and cultural benefits of MPAs, improve

understanding of regulations to increase compliance, and

inspire stewardship of the MPA network.


Policy and Permitting: Ensure equitable, science-based

governance of California’s MPA network through adaptive



Enforcement and Compliance: Increase capacity and

effectiveness of MPA enforcement and compliance statewide

Research and Monitoring: Develop and implement research

and monitoring efforts to evaluate MPA performance and

address emerging questions to inform adaptive management.


Research and Monitoring: Develop and implement research and monitoring efforts to evaluate MPA performance and address emerging questions to inform adaptive management


Under outreach and education, the plan is looking to elevate the national and international profile of California’s MPAs by exploring a potential partnership with MPAs in other states and countries and support the promotion of California MPAs co-located with UNESCO-designated Biosphere Reserves and World Heritage nomination and designation of the California Current Conservation Complex.

           Under outreach and education, the plan looks to elevate the national and international profile of California’s MPAs by exploring a partnership with MPAs in other states and countries and promoting the state’s MPAs that are a part of UNESCO’s designated Biosphere Reserves, among other moves.

Under Policy and Permitting, the plan will also look at developing co-management measures collaboratively with California’s Native Tribes.

There are several goals lined up under the four main focal points. Still, the leadership team also looks at the MPA’s ability to conserve and protect marine life, ensure sustained funding for the management program, institutionalize inclusive partnerships with Tribal governments and representatives, and create an effective and adaptive management plan.

Meeting all the requirements for the MPAs is a balancing act to ensure overall consensus and meet the needs of the individual MPAs. California has such a brilliant and diverse ecosystem up and down the coast the needs for each area are different.

“There might be a specific need in one specific MPA,” said Handelman. “For example, the law enforcement division might have reason to believe that poaching is occurring at higher rates in one specific MPA because you know they are catching a higher number of people poaching in that MPA.”

Just as life changes on a dime, the plan is a living document that allows the team to adjust to meet the new needs throughout the years. If poaching increases in one area or another, the team can adjust to meet that need, or as climate change becomes more prevalent on the coasts, the plan can be adjusted to meet the needs of vulnerable communities.

“It is actually a living document,” said Handelman. “…It is part of the nature of the MPA network to adapt [to] management. You adapt your management decisions and your activities as things change, especially in the current climate or in the current case of climate change. Things are changing, and we need to be able to be nimble enough to react and respond to those changes.”

There is an opportunity for the community to be involved in the plan through the MPA Collaborative Network.

“MPA Collaborative network is a member of the leadership team,” said Handelman. “That is an excellent way for people who are living on the coast interacting with their MPAs, they care about the MPAs, and they want their voices heard on a leadership level for them to get involved with their local MPA collaborative that way their voices can be heard when they are making decisions in Sacramento.”

The network is a grassroots organization that organizes stakeholders across the state in a localized way, opening the opportunity for local voices to be heard. For more information, see

For more information and to read the complete work plan for 2021-2025, see the Ocean Protection Council website at

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