Then & Now: La Jolla Cove, pre-Marine Protected Area

The 1918 photo of La Jolla Cove caught our attention as a bit of an antique “look and find” game.

Can you spot the person doing a handstand? How about the cottage that now houses Brockton Villa? Or the man on the beach … in a suit and tie?

If you scroll to the present-day recreation of the photo, you might notice, aside from the early-model automobiles, a few more things missing from the original shot: boats and smaller vessels in the water.

In this century, only people, sea lions and other sea creatures are allowed in The Cove, which is included in the Matlahuayl State Marine Reserve (SMR), one of three state-protected Marine Protected Areas in La Jolla where ocean activities are restricted to protect the marine ecosystems thriving there.

Adjacent to the northern edge of the Matlahuayl SMR is the San Diego-Scripps Coastal State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA), which lies just off the coast of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. 

Established in 1929, the Scripps SMCA is California’s first MPA, originally intended to protect the submerged and intertidal area near SIO by prohibiting removal of all plants and animals except for scientific research.

The Matlahuayl SMR, named for the Kumeyaay word for “place of many caves,” was established originally in 1970 as the San Diego-La Jolla Underwater Park Ecological Reserve, meant to preserve the kelp beds and fish populations swimming within The Cove.

The SMCA was expanded into the larger area it is now in 2012; it and the Matlahuayl SMR, along with the South La Jolla SMR and SMCA, are part of a network of 124 MPAs statewide – a network also established in 2012, only 12 years ago.

Within the MPAs, certain activities are limited or prohibited entirely to protect the natural habitats and the species that live there.

In it, fishing and harvesting are prohibited, as they are within any SMR. “It is unlawful to injure, damage, take, or possess any living, geological, or cultural marine resource,” the law states.

Within the SMCAs, some fishing is allowed: “recreational take of coastal pelagic species except market squid (northern anchovy, Pacific sardine, Pacific mackerel, and jack mackerel), by hook-and-line only is allowed.”

Within the southernmost portion of the Matlahuayl SMR, including to the shoreline at La Jolla Cove and marked by buoys, boating and anchoring are strictly prohibited.

A decade after the establishment of California’s MPA network, officials touted the success of the efforts to preserve marine life even as the state flourished to be the world’s fifth-largest economy; endeavors to continue education and celebration of the richness of the life under our La Jolla waves are ongoing and as plentiful as the fish in the sea.

Picture of Elisabeth Frausto

Elisabeth Frausto

Elisabeth Frausto has been reporting on and writing about La Jolla since 2019. With dozens of local and state journalism awards to her name, Elisabeth knows the industry as well as she knows her community. When she’s not covering all things 92037, you’ll find her with coffee in hand staring at the sea.
Picture of Elisabeth Frausto

Elisabeth Frausto

Elisabeth Frausto has been reporting on and writing about La Jolla since 2019. With dozens of local and state journalism awards to her name, Elisabeth knows the industry as well as she knows her community. When she’s not covering all things 92037, you’ll find her with coffee in hand staring at the sea.

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