California Collaborative Fisheries Research Program – monitoring and evaluation of California marine protected areas

Project Number
Project Date Range
Funding Agency
California Ocean Protection Council (OPC)
Focus Area(s)
Healthy Coastal Ecosystems, Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture

The California Collaborative Fisheries Research Program (CCRFP) is a diverse partnership of volunteer anglers, boat captains, scientists, nongovernmental organizations, and charter companies interested in promoting sustainable fisheries. They have been monitoring California MPAs since 2007. The research team surveyed 12 MPA and 12 reference sites in 2019 and 2020, from Northern to Southern California, and worked with 18 commercial passenger fishing vessels and over 300 volunteer anglers during that time. CCFRP uses standardized fishing gear and sampling protocols to catch, measure, tag, and release fish caught inside and outside of MPAs, thus providing information about the abundance, size, biomass, diversity, and movement patterns of fishes in nearshore waters.
The team documented significant changes in abundance, size, and biomass of fishes inside and outside of MPAs over time. Fish are more abundant, larger in size, and greater in biomass inside the MPAs across the state compared to reference areas open to fishing. The strength of the MPA response depended on the intensity of fishing outside the MPAs; in locations with light fishing pressure, biomass increased both inside and outside the MPAs, while in locations with heavy fishing pressure, biomass increased only inside the MPAs. Results also indicated that larger MPAs across the state experienced greater increases in species abundance and overall biomass than smaller MPAs. 
The team also created education and outreach materials to share with volunteer anglers, academics, resource managers, and the general public about the CCFRP program, marine reserves, and fisheries management. The team found that with education and relationship building through the CCFRP program, anglers develop a significantly more positive attitude about MPAs. 

Project monitoring sites

map of california with monitoring sites listedThis project plans to conduct monitoring at the following Tier I sites (listed from north to south):

  • Reading Rock State Marine Reserve (SMR)
  • Ten Mile SMR
  • Stewarts Point SMR
  • Bodega Head SMR
  • Año Nuevo SMR 
  • Point Lobos SMR
  • Piedras Blancas SMR 
  • Point Buchon SMR
  • Carrington Point SMR
  • Anacapa Island State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA)
  • Anacapa Island SMR
  • Swami's SMCA
  • South La Jolla SMR






Principal Investigators
Scott Hamilton
Moss Landing Marine Laboratories / San Jose State University
profile photo of Rick Starr Rick Starr
San Jose State University (San Jose State)
Co-principal Investigators
Dean Wendt
California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo (Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo)
Lyall Bellquist
University of California, San Diego, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Jennifer Caselle
University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB)
Steven G. Morgan
Bodega Marine Laboratory
Timothy Mulligan
Cal Poly Humboldt
Brice Semmens
University of California, San Diego, Scripps Institution of Oceanography

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