is the common name for the area including Point Lobos State Natural Reserve
and two adjoining marine protected areas: Point Lobos State Marine Reserve
(SMR) and Point Lobos State Marine Conservation Area
(SMCA). Point Lobos is just south of the town of Carmel-by-the-Sea
Carmel-by-the-Sea, often called simply Carmel, is a small city in Monterey County, California, United States, founded in 1902 and incorporated in 1916. Situated on the Monterey Peninsula, the town is known for its natural scenery and rich artistic history...
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...
, United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...
on the coast of the Pacific Ocean
The Pacific Ocean is the largest of the Earth's oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic in the north to the Southern Ocean in the south, bounded by Asia and Australia in the west, and the Americas in the east.At 165.2 million square kilometres in area, this largest division of the World...
but north of Big Sur
Big Sur is a sparsely populated region of the Central Coast of California where the Santa Lucia Mountains rise abruptly from the Pacific Ocean. The name "Big Sur" is derived from the original Spanish-language "el sur grande", meaning "the big south", or from "el país grande del sur", "the big...
Point Lobos contains a number of hiking trails, many next to the ocean, and a smaller number of beaches. It is the site of a historic marine reserve
For the United States Marine Corps Reserve see: Marine Forces ReserveA marine reserve is an area of the sea which has legal protection against fishing or development. This is to be distinguished from a marine park, but there is some overlap in usage...
, which was expanded in 2007. It is also the home to a museum on whaling, which includes a historic building once used by area fishermen. The longstanding wildlife protection and scenic seascape have led to Point Lobos' reputation as an unparalleled local recreational scuba diving
Scuba diving is a form of underwater diving in which a diver uses a scuba set to breathe underwater....
Geography and Natural Features
The iconic Point Lobos area is geologically unique and contains a rich and diverse plant and animal life both on shore and in the water. Called the “greatest meeting of land and water in the world” by landscape artist Francis McComas
Francis McComas was a Tasmanian watercolourist who found success in California.-Biography:Francis John McComas was born in Fingal a small town in a valley of the same name in north east Tasmania. When still a teenager he worked his passage to America where he studied at the Mark Hopkins Institute...
, Point Lobos is considered a crown jewel in the California state park system.
The precipitous drop in the ocean floor off Point Lobos (reaching depths characteristic of the mid Pacific Ocean within a few kilometres of shore) gives rise to unique tidal effects, with unusually high levels of oxygen
Oxygen is the element with atomic number 8 and represented by the symbol O. Its name derives from the Greek roots ὀξύς and -γενής , because at the time of naming, it was mistakenly thought that all acids required oxygen in their composition...
being injected into the ocean water. This in turn attracts an unusual variety of plant and animal marine life, ranging from high plankton
Plankton are any drifting organisms that inhabit the pelagic zone of oceans, seas, or bodies of fresh water. That is, plankton are defined by their ecological niche rather than phylogenetic or taxonomic classification...
concentrations, moving up the food chain to marine mammal
Marine mammals, which include seals, whales, dolphins, and walruses, form a diverse group of 128 species that rely on the ocean for their existence. They do not represent a distinct biological grouping, but rather are unified by their reliance on the marine environment for feeding. The level of...
Marine Protected Areas
The original Point Lobos Ecological Reserve was created in 1973. As one of California's most well known and longstanding no-take reserve, Point Lobos became a hotspot for non-consumptive recreational diving known for its large and diverse fish populations.
In 2007, the Ecological Reserve was expanded and renamed with the establishment of The Point Lobos SMR and Point Lobos SMCA by the California Department of Fish and Game
The California Department of Fish and Game is a department within the government of California, falling under its parent California Natural Resources Agency. The Department of Fish and Game manages and protects the state's diverse fish, wildlife, plant resources, and native habitats...
. They were two of 29 marine protected areas adopted during the first phase of the Marine Life Protection Act
The Marine Life Protection Act was passed in 1999 and is part of the California Fish and Game Code. The MLPA requires California to reevaluate all existing marine protected areas and potentially design new MPAs that together function as a statewide network. The MLPA has clear guidance associated...
Initiative, a collaborative public process to create a statewide network of marine protected areas along the California coastline.
State Marine Reserve
Point Lobos SMR covers 5.36 square miles. The SMR protects all marine life within its boundaries. Fishing and take of all living marine resources is prohibited. The marine reserve is bounded by the mean high tide line and straight lines connecting the following points in the order listed:
- 36° 31.70’ N. lat. 121° 55.55’ W. long.;
- 36° 31.70’ N. lat. 121° 58.25’ W. long.;
- 36° 28.88’ N. lat. 121° 58.25’ W. long.; and
- 36° 28.88’ N. lat. 121° 56.30’ W. long.
State Marine Conservation Area
Point Lobos SMCA covers 8.83 square miles. Harvest of all living marine resources is prohibited in the conservation area except the recreational and commercial take of salmon
Salmon is the common name for several species of fish in the family Salmonidae. Several other fish in the same family are called trout; the difference is often said to be that salmon migrate and trout are resident, but this distinction does not strictly hold true...
The albacore, Thunnus alalunga, is a type of tuna in the family Scombridae. This species is also called albacore fish, albacore tuna, albicore, longfin, albies, pigfish, tombo ahi, binnaga, Pacific albacore, German bonito , longfin tuna, longfin tunny, or even just tuna...
, and the commercial take of spot prawn. The area is bounded by straight lines connecting the following points in the order listed except where noted:
- 36° 31.70’ N. lat. 121° 58.25’ W. long.;
- 36° 31.70’ N. lat. 122° 01.30’ W. long.; thence southward along the three nautical mile offshore boundary to
- 36° 28.88’ N. lat. 122° 00.55’ W. long.;
- 36° 28.88’ N. lat. 121° 58.25’ W. long.; and
- 36° 31.70’ N. lat. 121° 58.25’ W. long.
Habitat and Wildlife
The Point Lobos marine protected areas provide shelter to a wide range of fish, invertebrate
An invertebrate is an animal without a backbone. The group includes 97% of all animal species – all animals except those in the chordate subphylum Vertebrata .Invertebrates form a paraphyletic group...
s, birds and marine mammals, from those that rely on the near-shore kelp
Kelps are large seaweeds belonging to the brown algae in the order Laminariales. There are about 30 different genera....
forest to those that inhabit the deep waters of the Carmel Submarine Canyon.
Point Lobos is one of only two places where the Monterey Cypress
Cupressus macrocarpa, commonly known as Monterey Cypress or Macrocarpa, is a species of cypress that is endemic to the Central Coast of California. In the wild, the species is confined to two small populations, near Monterey and Carmel, California. These two small populations represent what was...
can be found in the wild. The waters around Point Lobos contain extensive kelp forest
Kelp forests are underwater areas with a high density of kelp. They are recognized as one of the most productive and dynamic ecosystems on Earth. Smaller areas of anchored kelp are called kelp beds....
Whaler's Cabin Museum
Point Lobos features a building constructed in the 1850s to house Japanese and Chinese fishermen. This building has been preserved, and now houses a museum dedicated to the area whaling
Whaling is the hunting of whales mainly for meat and oil. Its earliest forms date to at least 3000 BC. Various coastal communities have long histories of sustenance whaling and harvesting beached whales...
industry. The museum also highlights the history of Point Lobos, including its cinematic appearances and plans at the turn of the 20th century to develop the area for densely packed suburban housing.
Point Lobos State Natural Reserve offers outstanding coastal scenery, hiking trails and dive sites. The adjacent marine protected areas provide ample opportunities for scuba diving.
California’s marine protected areas encourage recreational and educational uses of the ocean. Activities such as kayak
A kayak is a small, relatively narrow, human-powered boat primarily designed to be manually propelled by means of a double blade paddle.The traditional kayak has a covered deck and one or more cockpits, each seating one paddler...
ing, diving, snorkeling
Snorkeling is the practice of swimming on or through a body of water while equipped with a diving mask, a shaped tube called a snorkel, and usually swimfins. In cooler waters, a wetsuit may also be worn...
and swimming are allowed unless otherwise restricted.
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.