Big Creek
State Marine Reserve and Conservation Area

 Delta submersible off Big Creek, 1997

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History The 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 the Marine Reserve Any research or teaching that involves boating or scuba diving requires approval from the Diving Safety Officer at UCSC. 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.

Research Summary The Big Creek Marine Reserve has been closed to all fishing since 1993, and closed to most fishing since 1989. The 2.5 miles of intertidal habitat was surveyed in 1983, producing a detailed Intertidal Species List, and again in 1993. We hope to re-survey again in 2003. The subtidal habitats include rocky shoreline, boulder beaches, sandy beaches, shallow rocky reefs and boulder fields, kelp forest dominated by Bull Kelp (Nereocystis sp.) and Giant Kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera), pinnacles, sand canyons, sandy bottom, and fine-sediment bottom habitats. The outer edge of the reserve (300' depth) forms the top of a steep escarpment descending the edge of the continental shelf, including rocky cliffs and headlands. The reserve and surrounding waters have been the subject of study by the Marine Ecological Reserves Research Program (MERRP), which produced several reports and maps available from the California Sea Grant College. David Ventresca (CDFG) and colleagues conducted scuba studies of fish populations in the shallower protions of the reserve, while Mary Yoklavish (National Marine Fisheries Service) and coworkers conducted studies in the deeper waters using submersibles. Both teams co-produced a map of the entire reserve (excluding the shoreline and intertidal). Caroline Pomeroy conducted a sociological study of the nearshore fishery and the Big Sur Skiff Fishing Survey. Several other student projects have been conducted in the marine reserve over the years (see current project list).

Enforcement Summary By virtue of its remoteness from port, and owing to the cooperation and understanding of the fishing community, enforcement has not been a serious problem with this marine reserve. The local community is aware of the reserve status as a no-fishing zone, and is ready and willing to inform the reserve manager of potential violations. The manager then calls in a CDFG warden, and attempts to contact the fisher in question. Fewer than 20 violations have been recorded since the reserve's establishment.


 Big Creek Cove shelters the mouth of Big Creek, and provides a shore entry point into the marine reserve.

 Diver's view of Big Creek canyon and bridge.

 Rocky intertidal just north of Big Creek Cove

 The lands above the marine reserve are part of the University of California Landels-Hill Big Creek Reserve.