LaJolla Beach Kayaks_- photo copyright Peter Chigmaroff
Along the coast of San Diego there are two adjoining marine protected areas: San Diego-Scripps Coastal Marine Conservation Area and Matlahuayl State Marine Reserve. Together, these picturesque bodies of water span about 2 and ½ miles and can be seen from the shores of La Jolla Cove, a popular tourist destination for many. This impressive array of rocky reef and kelp forest habitats is considered to be the most extensive and biodiverse of the region.
- San Diego-Scripps Coastal Marine Conservation Area was named after the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, an institute based in La Jolla that is known as one of the oldest oceanographic institutes in the United States. It was founded in 1903, has been affiliated with the University of California system since 1912, and is still known for the marine research it conducts.
- Matlahuayl State Marine Reserve was named in honor of the Kumeyaay, the local Native Americans, and their culture. Their original name for La Jolla was mat kulaaxuuy or “land of holes” perhaps in reference to the sea caves that dot the coastline.
- La Jolla Cove features a sheltered kelp forest where many species of note make their home. Among these include leopard sharks, garibaldi—the vibrant orange California state fish, octopus, and spawning grunion. La Jolla Cove first received MPA protection in 1929; the protected area’s expansion in 2012 under the Marine Life Protection Act allows snorkelers and divers to experience the abundance of marine life produced by this long-term protection.
- These two marine protected areas work to protect a branch of La Jolla submarine canyon called Scripps Canyon. This is sometimes considered to be the best studied of all submarine canyons because it is so near to the Scripps Institute of Oceanography.
- La Jolla is home to San Diego’s biggest concentration of red urchin reefs
- Explore La Jolla Shores along with the over 2 million visitors that are drawn to this destination each year by the marine plants and animals. Walk the paths, put your toes in the sand, or go for a swim.
- Snorkel or scuba-dive this famous dive spot to see seals, sea lions, garibaldi, leopard sharks, and more. The Ocean Conservancy ranked these MPAs as one of the top ten dive spots in California.
- Stop by the Children’s Pool in La Jolla Cove. From the sea wall, you can see the waters of the marine protected area from this spot and can most likely watch seals sunbathing in the beach below. This historic site has served as both a family-friendly beach to a safe haven for seals.
- Explore the Birch Aquarium, Scripp’s ocean science education center. Here you can interact with live sea creatures in tide pool touch tanks, see local fish, and learn more about the latest scientific marine research.