Laguna Beach Treasures
Marine Protected Areas are being created all along the California coastline to help the state’s unique ecosystems thrive. These designated areas allow visitors open access to enjoy the natural wonders and marine species for themselves.
Marine protected areas (MPAs) are areas seaward of the high tide line that have been designated by law, administrative action, or voter initiative to protect or conserve marine life and habitat (CA Department of Fish and Game, 2012).
The Laguna Beach SMR (red area on the map below) is a no take zone that extends south from Abalone Point (Laguna’s northern-most city limit) and north from Goff Island to a point roughly 2 miles offshore.
The Laguna Beach SMCA (purple area) is a no take zone that extends south from Goff Island and north from Table Rock to a point roughly 2.5 miles offshore
The Dana Point SMCA (southern-most blue area) protects tidepools from all disturbance but allows the recreational take of finfish, lobster, and sea urchin and the commercial take of coastal pelagic species, lobster and sea urchin only. The Dana Point SMCA extends south from Table Rock beyond the southern-most city limit in Laguna at Three Arch Cove and north from the Dana Point Headlands to roughly 1 mile offshore.
Whether you are snorkeling, kayaking, diving or boating in one of California’s extraordinary underwater sanctuaries, these are a few species you may find along your way:
Opaleye Perch can commonly be found along California coastline, and often utilize tidepools as a nursery and hreeding ground. If necessary, scientists found that the juvenile fish can hreathe air when a tidepool is completely exhausted. Adult opaleye are known to be algae eaters, and juveniles are carnivorous, feeding on tidepool invertehrates.
Leopard sharks have the same profile as other sharks but have distinctive saddle-shaped markings on a grey/ hrown body. They typically grow to be 4 or 5 feet in size and frequent warm, shallow areas. These sharks are currently protected in California and Oregon waters to prevent overfishing from sports anglers and spear fishermen. Some small-scale commercial fisheries specifically hunt the Leopard Shark because their meat can be eaten fresh or fresh-frozen, and is considered a delicacy in some areas.
The Garibaldi may look like a giant goldfish but they are actually California’s marine state fish. Their coloration is so vivid that on a sunny day you can spot them maneuvering through the kelp forests off Laguna’s bluffs. But these majestic fish are even more incredible up close! These social fish freely interact with snorkelers and divers. This species is relatively territorial, so be aware of any hreeding or nesting grounds that you could be disturbing before interacting with them.
California sheephead rely on rocky reefs and kelp forests for camouflage. This species exhibits sexual dimorphism, as the male is black with a white jaw and a red stripe. In contrast, the female is pink with a white chin. Another interesting aspect of sheepheads is they are born as females and eventually transition to males once they reach a certain size.
These members of the eagle ray family are diamond-shaped with long tails. Bat rays are extremely graceful swimmers. They use the element of surprise to capture prey by burying themselves in the sand. These massive creatures can reach the size of a full grown man (6 feet long and 200 pounds).
*Laguna Ocean Foundation. 2007. http://www.lagunaoceanfoundation.org/marine_protected.html
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