Elkhorn Slough State Marine Conservation Area

Elkhorn Slough SMCA & SMR / Moro Cojo SMR

Like state and national parks protect wildlife and habitats on land, marine protected areas (MPAs) conserve and restore wildlife and habitats in our ocean. Under the California Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) passed in 1999, California began a historic effort to establish a science-based, statewide network of MPAs through a collaborative effort that includes the California Department of Fish and Game and California State Parks. California is taking a regional approach to the design and implementation of MPAs, and has divided the state into five regions: the north coast, south coast, north central coast, central coast and San Francisco Bay.

MPAs contribute to healthier, more resilient ocean ecosystems that can better withstand a wide range of impacts such as pollution and climate change. By protecting entire ecosystems rather than focusing on a single species, MPAs are powerful tools for conserving and restoring ocean biodiversity, and protecting cultural resources, while allowing certain activities such as marine recreation and research. There is a global body of scientific evidence about the effectiveness of marine protected areas and reserves to restore marine ecosystems (http://www.piscoweb.org/outreach/pubs/reserves).

In the waters near to Moss Landing State Beach, there are three MPAs, Elkhorn Slough State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA), Elkhorn Slough and Moro Cojo Slough State Marine Reserves (SMR).

  • Elkhorn Slough State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA)
    • Extends from a location approximately 0.8 miles upstream of the Highway 1 Bridge to the Highway 1 Bridge downstream.
    • The Slough is one of the few coastal wetlands remaining in the state, second in size to San Francisco Bay. Nearly 7 miles long, this waterway shelters an abundance of marine life.
    • Permitted/Prohibited Uses: No take of plants and invertebrates; Recreational take of clams is allowed on north shore of slough; Fishing by hook and line only is allowed.
    • Elkhorn Slough Brochure - includes additional information on the natural history, key species, and regulations of this MPA, as well as a detailed map with GPS coordinates of the area.

  • Elkhorn Slough State Marine Reserve (SMR)
    • Extends from the dock at Kirby Park upstream to a location approximately 0.8 miles upstream of the Highway 1 Bridge downstream.
    • Marine mammals such as sea otters, sea lions and harbor seals eat and rest along the muddy banks of the slough.
    • Invertebrates such as gaper clams, shore crabs, fat innkeeper worms and many others thrive here.
    • Over 340 species of birds live or migrate to these rich and diverse MPAs.
    • Permitted/Prohibited Uses: No fishing. All take of living marine resources is prohibited.
    • Elkhorn Slough Brochure - includes additional information on the natural history, key species, and regulations of this MPA, as well as a detailed map with GPS coordinates of the area.

  • Moro Cojo Slough State Marine Reserve (SMR)
    • Extends from the Southern Pacific Railroad tracks on the upstream end to the Highway 1 Bridge downstream.
    • Permitted/Prohibited Uses: No fishing. All take of living marine resources is prohibited.

This information does not replace the official regulatory language found in California Code of Regulations, Title 14, Section 632, including commercial allowances and restrictions.

  • A fishing license is required for any fishing.
  • All existing take regulations still apply in addition to the ones listed above.
  • Unless otherwise stated, all non-consumptive recreational activities are allowed.

Additional Resources:

For additional information on MPAs please visit the California Department of Fish and Game’s website: http://www.dfg.ca.gov/mlpa/

For resources related to MPAs, please visit the Marine Protected Areas Education and Outreach Initiative’s website: http://www.CaliforniaMPAs.org