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The Upper Newport Back Bay is an Ecological Reserve and a Marine Protected Area (MPA)

The ecological reserve system, authorized by the California Legislature in 1968, is designed to conserve areas for the protection of rare plants, animals and habitats, and to provide areas for education and scientific research. With the acquisition and designation of Buena Vista Lagoon Ecological Reserve in 1968, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) began an ecological reserve system which now encompasses 119 properties totaling nearly 129,000 acres.

This system of reserves makes a significant contribution to the conservation of California's biological diversity by protecting important species populations and habitats, some found nowhere else in the world!

California's ecological reserves also provide educational and recreational opportunities for wildlife viewing, nature walking, and fishing in areas where these activities have no adverse effect on the wildlife and habitats. Welcome to California's ecological reserves!


California's coast and ocean are among our most treasured resources. The productivity, wildness, and beauty found here is central to California's identity, heritage, and economy. The need to safeguard the long-term health of California's marine life was recognized by the California Legislature in 1999 with the passage of the Marine Life Protection Act. This Act aims to protect California’s marine natural heritage through establishing a statewide network of marine protected areas (MPAs) designed, created, and managed using sound science and stakeholder input.

MPAs protect the diversity and abundance of marine life, the habitats they depend on, and the integrity of marine ecosystems. The Marine Life Protection Act recognizes that a combination of MPAs with varied amounts of allowed activities and protections (marine reserves, marine conservation areas, and marine parks) can help conserve biological diversity, provide a sanctuary for marine life, and enhance recreational and educational opportunities. MPAs can also provide scientific reference points to assist with resource management decisions, and protect a variety of marine habitats, communities, and ecosystems for their economic and intrinsic value, for generations to come.

Upper Newport Bay is part of a MPA, specifically a State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA).


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Upper Newport Bay Boating Limits

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Motorized boats are not allowed past North Beach where the Newport Aquatic Center is located. Only the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), law enforcement, or those with a State-issued access letter can enter the Reserve on motorized boats. Canoes, kayaks and stand up paddle boards can go to the upper bay up to the boat limit but must remain in the wide main channel. All side channels are closed to boats and paddlers to protect sensitive habitats and species. Please refer to map for boat limit information.

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