Date of Graduation

Spring 5-16-2014

Document Access

Project/Capstone - Global access

Degree Name

Master of Science in Environmental Management (MSEM)


Environmental Management

First Advisor

Gretchen Coffman


The San Francisco Bay (the Bay) is the largest estuary on the Pacific Coast. This makes it one of country's greatest natural resources. Historical and current impacts from mining, pollution, and dredging have reduced the size of the Bay’s shallow, productive environment, which provides vital habitat for many important species. The seven and a half million people that inhabit the shores and hills surrounding the Bay, and economic activities such as commercial fishing and development continue to degrade ecosystems. Although conservation efforts have led to improvement of water quality and some habitat restoration over the past few decades, very little has been done establishing marine protected areas in the San Francisco Bay. In 2009, with the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA), California adopted a regional network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) to effectively protect its coastal waters. All designated regions of the MLPA have been completed, except for the fifth and final region, San Francisco Bay, for which no planning has yet occurred. Efforts toward conservation and sustainable use of the Bay, by means of MPAs would provide a potential solution to counteract increasing pressure on natural resources due to extractive activities, and may help mitigate other impacts. In this literature review, thirty five ecologically and economically important plant, fish, bird, and marine mammal species were identified, within eight unique ecosystems. However, only small fragments of disconnected area in the Bay are currently protected, and no area offers complete protection from extraction or disturbance. Based on personal interviews, an extensive literature review, analyzed data, and lessons learned from the four coastal regions of the MLPA, I make recommendations for MPAs in San Francisco Bay in the matters of: funding, current protection efforts, future protection efforts, and the complex governance structure.