Marine protected area (MPA) watch

MPA Watch is a network of programs that support healthy oceans through community science by collecting human use data in and around our protected areas.

What is an MPA?

As defined by the World Wildlife Fund, Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are areas designated and effectively managed to protect marine ecosystems, processes, habitats, and species, which can contribute to the restoration and replenishment of resources for social, economic, and cultural enrichment.

What is MPA Watch?

MPA Watch is a community science program that trains volunteers to observe and collect data on human uses of coastal and marine resources both inside and outside of marine protected areas (MPAs). Volunteers use standardized protocols to collect relevant, scientifically rigorous, and broadly accessible data.

Data are meant to inform the management, enforcement, and science of California’s marine protected areas, and allow our network of programs and organizations to track how the public uses coastal areas.

By involving local communities in data collection, MPA Watch programs inspire and empower stewardship, and educate the public about California’s ocean ecosystems.

Learn more about the history of MPA Watch, Marine Protected Areas and why MPAs are important for California

“I love that as an everyday person I can do science and help save the ocean.”

– Alexis

“I loved seeing and counting how many people utilize this sanctuary.”


“After doing MPA Watch, I was able to teach my friends and family about Marine Protected Areas and how to reduce ocean pollution by taking ‘3 for the Sea’ which means 3 pieces of trash each time we are at the beach. This helps stop trash from hurting sea animals.”


“MPA Watch is an incredible research opportunity that gives my student scientists real world science applications. They also gain ownership of Marine Protected Area ecosystems so that they can be advocates and stewards for MPAs.”

Meagan W.

We’d like your help. If you’d like to volunteer, find a program nearest you!