Leave No Trace: California Marine Conservation

When in California and other coastal states you may plan to hike, swim, or just play at the beach. It's hard to deny the scenic beauty of the Pacific Ocean where you can walk along the water's edge or on the towering cliffs above, surf the waves, kayak tiny coves, and explore hidden caves. California even has designated underwater parks off shore where you can scuba and snorkel to take in the sights many never see. The Pacific wilderness is vast and amazing. The ocean is a wonderful place to find recreational adventure and also a place that needs protection so we can continue to enjoy it for years to come.

It's smart to be prepared and have some knowledge of the natural areas you visit whether it is a forest or the beach. Educate yourself on the possible wild animals you may encounter and know how to act and react if you are in their way. Encounters may occur in the water or on the sand itself and differ depending on season and location.

sea star California

Wildlife Examples



  • Blue or gray whales during their migration

  • Seals and sea lions

  • Sting rays

  • Sharks

  • Fish

  • Pelicans and seagulls

  • Tide pool creatures


Learn the laws and regulations of the area. Just as in the forest, don't disturb the wildlife. Many tide pool inhabitants are small making it easy for people to forget they are wild and play a very important role in the ecosystem in which they live.  Resist the temptation to pick up, rearrange, or collect those organisms. It's important to watch where you step and please don't remove marine animals or their resources from their habitat. Some of California's shores are rookeries or breeding grounds for wild animals such as elephant seals or seabirds and the beaches may be closed to us. Some will have special viewing areas away from the beach to protect the animals and you. Have you seen an elephant seal in person? Northern elephant seal bulls can weigh over 5000lbs. They are huge and I've heard move much quicker than you would expect. Again, it's important to read signs and pay attention to your surroundings.

Santa Cruz Island
The Department of Fish and Game oversees the Marine Protected Areas  (MPAs) of California including the marine life, habitats, and ecosystems. There are different classifications within the California MPA network including: reserves, parks, conservation areas, recreational management areas, and special closures which all come with their own set of rules. I'm not going to list those rules here, but the point is to know where you are playing and the laws that apply. It can be difficult to know if you are in a MPA, sometimes there are signs and sometimes there are not, so a good rule of thumb and a best practice is to treat all our coastal treasures with respect all the time.

Leave no trace



  • Plan ahead and Prepare


  • Respect Wildlife


    • Don't feed seagulls squirrels or any other wildlife. (I see this all the time and it drives me nuts).

    • Stay away and don't harass marine mammals such as seals and sea lions.


  • Leave what you Find


    • Don't collect or move any living marine resources from inside tide pools.

    • Take photos and make memories instead.


  • Dispose of waste in proper containers or take it with you.


    • Don't Litter


  • Tread lightly



Elephant Seals
The California Coast is meant to be enjoyed both recreationally and educationally. Jog on the beach, hike through a marsh, or take a backpacking trip on the Lost Coast. The choices are vast and wide. Visitors and locals need to respect our seashore and ocean. The California Coast provides us with a special place to enjoy ourselves outdoors and we should take care of it. Let's explore, learn, and enjoy this nature resource with friends and family. Let's build a lifetime of memories around it. Let us also care for it, cherish it, clean it, and protect it.

Find more posts from Traci here: TeamSierra or visit her blog: WalkSimply

Traci Lehman
posted by
Traci Lehman
Blogger at Walk Simply
Traci Lehman is an IT Analyst by trade and when she's not in the office she shares her walking and outdoor adventures on Walk Simply. Based in Southern California, Traci hopes to inspire others to go outside, enjoy the little things, and view our world up-close. Follow along on her adventures and keep up on her newest contributions here, on her own blog or on Twitter.
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