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California

Protecting Coastal and Marine Habitats


Transforming Fisheries

Read the New York Times article about our revolutionary work.

Marine Map

California Coastal and Marine Program

Check out the latest New York Times article about the Conservancy's groundbreaking leadership in transforming fisheries in California and beyond.


Protecting our marine environment helps support coastal communities, commercial and recreational fishing and tourism. Tragically, our coastal and marine environments are highly threatened. There is a critical need for innovative models that address how human use interacts with our marine environment.

Here in California, the Conservancy's Coastal and Marine Program is working with partners to develop new marine management models that provide long-term stewardship of our oceans.

The Largest No-Trawl Zone on the West Coast

Trust among unlikely partners led to one of the most successful — and collaborative — offshore habitat conservation efforts in California.

As part of our Central Coast Groundfish Project, The Nature Conservancy worked with partners to protect 3.8 million acres — 6,000 square miles — of seafloor off California’s Central Coast. As a result, the Conservancy now owns federal trawling permits — a first for a non-governmental organization.

The permits, which are required by law, could be leased to commercial fishermen, who would be required to follow specific conservation practices, thereby preserving habitat. Cooperation with fishermen and harbormasters was an essential part of this process.

Today we are building on these relationships to implement an array of truly innovative marine conservation programs.

Changing the Face of Fishing

Any lasting solution must protect our oceans, as well as address the needs of seafood consumers and fishing communities. Americans consume an average of 16.5 pounds of seafood per person per year, and the demand continues to grow. Consumers are increasingly aware that consuming local seafood is better for the environment.

As a result, the Conservancy and our partners are pioneering new harvesting techniques and models for a sustainable fishery.

Through the Central Coast Groundfish Project, the Conservancy is working with fishermen in the region to test a prototype community fishing association that could hold and sustainably manage all of the Conservancy’s permits.

Together, we are working on innovative programs, such as our trawling-permit program, to explore more environmentally and economically viable approaches to fishing.

Cutting-Edge Conservation Science and Planning

For the last three years, The Nature Conservancy has played a leading role in the State of California’s efforts to protect marine life and improve its marine protected areas. By providing scientific input, planning expertise and conservation data, as well as assisting with the development of new marine mapping and decision-making tools, the Conservancy contributed significantly to the public planning process, which resulted in 29 new marine protected areas.

The Conservancy is now working with the Department of Fish and Game and other partners to study and improve the effectiveness of marine protected areas as a conservation tool.

In 2008, the Conservancy became the first environmental organization to receive grant funding from the State of California and the Ocean Protection Council to purchase a remotely operated vehicle (ROV). The Conservancy will be using the ROV — an underwater robot with cameras — in a groundbreaking, multi-year trawl fishing study on the Central Coast with an array of science partners that will help guide our efforts to develop sustainable fisheries.

Fast Facts

Location: Nearshore and offshore waters along California’s 1,200-mile coast

Size: 38 million acres

At Stake: Rocky reefs, offshore banks, underwater canyons, seamounts, coral gardens and kelp forests that harbor an extraordinarily diverse number of marine species and support the economic well-being of commercial fishing and tourism

Threats: Habitat loss, overfishing, climate change, pollution and invasive species. California’s oceans are some of the most biologically diverse in the world. Productive oceans, like California’s, are some of the planet’s most threatened marine habitats

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