Big Creek Marine Protected Areas


The original Big Creek State Marine Reserve was created in December 1993 by the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) as one of four Marine Resources Protection Act (MRPA) reserves. Soon after, the University of California signed a Memorandum of Understanding with CDFG, providing that University research and teaching programs could continue and that UC Big Creek Reserve manager would act as site manager for the marine reserve. In 2007, through the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA), CDFG incorporated Big Creek Marine Reserve into a network of Central Coast Marine Protected Areas extending from Pt. Conception to Pt. Ano Nuevo. The boundaries of the Big Creek Marine Reserve were extended north, south and west and the inclusion of a Marine Conservation Area was also established. A description of the new Central Coast MPA’s and maps of the Big Creek Marine Protected Areas can be found on the CDFG MLPA site.

Conducting Research in Marine Protected Areas

Neither Big Creek Reserve personnel nor UCSC have regulatory jurisdiction in ocean waters. All research that involves collecting in the MPA’s requires a scientific collecting permit from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. (

Big Creek Reserve does have jurisdiction over access to the MPA from the shore. Any research or teaching that involves boating or scuba diving requires filing a Big Creek use application and, if a UCSC diver, a dive project proposal with the Diving Safety Officer at UCSC. Please see our Diving and Boating page for more information (link to diving and boating page). Applicants who wish to work in the marine reserve should contact the Big Creek manager to see what additional permitting and other requirements may be in effect.