Feather Duster Worm - Lingcod Reef, Carmel Bay
Carmel Beach

Carmel Bay State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA) is a marine protected area in Carmel Bay. Carmel Bay is adjacent to the city of Carmel-by-the-Sea and is near Monterey, on California’s central coast. The marine protected area covers 2.12 square miles.[1] Recreational fishing of finfish and limited commercial taking of kelp is permitted within the SMCA.[2]


The Carmel Bay SMCA was established in September 2007 by the California Fish and Game Commission. It was one of 29 marine protected areas adopted during the first phase of the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative. The Marine Life Protection Act Initiative (or MLPAI) is a collaborative public process to create a statewide network of marine protected areas along the California coastline.

The Carmel Bay SMCA encourages recreational fishing opportunities in an area close to a nearby port by precluding commercial extraction or take of invertebrates throughout the Bay but allowing sport fishing for finfish from shore, kayak, or boat.

Geography and natural features

Carmel Bay (SMCA) is near Carmel Pinnacles State Marine Reserve, Point Lobos State Marine Reserve and Point Lobos State Marine Conservation Area. On opposite sides of Carmel Bay are the only two extant stands of Monterey Cypress, Cupressus macrocarpa.[3]

This marine protected area is bounded by the mean high tide line and straight lines connecting the following points in the order listed:[4]

Habitat and wildlife

Habitats protected by Carmel Bay SMCA include kelp forest, sandy beach, submarine canyon head, and surfgrass.[5]

Recreation and nearby attractions

Carmel Bay is a tourism and ocean recreation destination. Divers and kayakers are attracted to its unique pinnacle formations, granite reefs and kelp forests. Carmel-By-The-Sea also features an iconic white sand beach.

In nearby Monterey, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is a major tourist attraction featuring a 28-foot (8.5 m) living kelp forest. The exhibit includes many of the species native to the nearby marine protected areas. The aquarium also houses sea otters, intertidal wildlife, and occasionally sea turtles.

California’s marine protected areas encourage recreational and educational uses of the ocean.[6] Activities such as kayaking, diving, snorkeling, and swimming are allowed unless otherwise restricted.

Scientific monitoring

As specified by the Marine Life Protection Act, select marine protected areas along California’s central coast are being monitored by scientists to track their effectiveness and learn more about ocean health. Similar studies in marine protected areas located off of the Santa Barbara Channel Islands have already detected gradual improvements in fish size and number.[7]


  1. ^ California Department of Fish and Game. “California Marine Life Protection Act Initiative Summary of Central Coast MPAs as Adopted by the California Fish and Game Commission Archived 2016-12-21 at the Wayback Machine”. Retrieved on December 22, 2008.
  2. ^ California Department of Fish and Game. "Online Guide to California’s Central Coast Marine Protected Areas Archived 2010-01-13 at the Wayback Machine". Retrieved on December 18, 2008.
  3. ^ C. Michael Hogan and Michael P. Frankis. 2009. Monterey Cypress: Cupressus macrocarpa, GlobalTwitcher.com ed. N. Stromberg Archived 2017-09-06 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ California Department of Fish and Game. "Central Coast Marine Protected Areas Archived 2010-05-20 at the Wayback Machine". Retrieved December 18, 2008.
  5. ^ Department of Fish and Game. "Appendix O. Regional MPA Management Plans" Archived 2018-06-10 at the Wayback Machine. Master Plan for Marine Protected Areas (approved February 2008). Retrieved December 18, 2008.
  6. ^ Department of Fish and Game. "California Fish and Game Code section 2853 (b)(3) Archived 2013-03-26 at the Wayback Machine". Marine Life Protection Act. Retrieved December 18, 2008.
  7. ^ Castell, Jenn, et al. "How do patterns of abundance and size structure differ between fished and unfished waters in the Channel Islands? Results from SCUBA surveys Archived May 31, 2010, at the Wayback Machine". Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans (PISCO) at University of California, Santa Barbara and University of California, Santa Cruz; Channel Islands National Park. Retrieved December 18, 2008.