San Diego’s Areas of Special Biological Significance

garibaldiWhile clean water is a necessary component of healthy oceans, water quality is constantly under attack from a variety of pollution sources, including discharge of wastewater and pollutants, litter and stormwater runoff.

In an effort to help protect our oceans and maintain natural water quality within some of the most pristine and biologically unique sections of California’s coast, the state created Areas of Special Biological Significance (ASBS) in the 1970s. Today, there are 34 such areas – sometimes referred to as State Water Quality Protection Areas – in California. The La Jolla Shores/Scripps area is home to two ASBS due to its unique marine diversity and opportunity for public use and research.

Following establishment of these areas, in 1983, the State Water Board’s Ocean Plan officially prohibited all polluted runoff and discharges into ASBS. Yet despite the importance of clean water and these legislative regulations, water pollution in its many forms continues to plague California’s waters.

San Diego’s Areas of Special Biological Significance

San Diego boasts two beautiful ASBS.  The La Jolla Area of Special Biological Significance covers 453 acres and includes La Jolla Cove, biologically-rich kelp forests and rocky reef. The San Diego-Scripps Area of Special Biological Significance is a 31 acre ASBS just north of Scripps Pier. Together, these areas protect water quality in critical habitats for hundreds of unique and fragile species.  San Diego’s two ASBS offer a tremendous opportunity to preserve the fantastic array of marine life and safeguard some of the world’s most beautiful coastal areas from water quality threats. You can enjoy the rich biodiversity here through a number of activities, from open water swimming to diving to bird watching. You can also check out our 10-part ASBS blog series and read up on just what makes these areas so special.

Coastkeeper and Areas of Special Biological Significance

Coastkeeper has a unique partnership with Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego and the City of San Diego to address threats to the water quality we strive to improve and maintain.

We’ve collaborated on projects such as incorporating low impact development techniques into constructed surfaces – such as parking lots, sidewalks and rooftops – along the La Jolla shores area and Scripps Institution of Oceanography and University California, San Diego campuses. We also work to encourage another important component to achieving higher water quality in ASBS: community participation. Everyone can preserve and improve the health of the watersheds that they live, work and play in. From fixing broken sprinklers, to participating in a beach cleanup or water quality monitoring, we can all help prevent further degradation of our precious water resources.

 Blog: What is an ASBS?

 Blog: How can I play in the ASBS?


Protecting ASBS: What is an ASBS?


 Diving and Snokeling the ASBS


 Swimming Pools to Tide Pools:
Your Neighborhood and ASBS Pollution


 The Best Thing About San Diego


Translating State Policy Into Action
on the Ground (or in the Ocean)

Photo by Jessie Altstatt Adams

 Now You Sea Me, Now You Don’t


Can Kayaking in La Jolla Keep Our Water Clean?


 Surf the ASBS


Celebrating Low Impact Development on World Oceans Day

Leopard Shark

Snorkel with the Leopard Sharks in
La Jolla Shores


For June Gloom: It’s a Balloon Gloom at La Jolla Shores Cleanups

58 gallon

Saving the Ocean One Raindrop at a Time


It Takes a Village to Protect a Watershed


Locals Only – Native Plant Gardening to Protect our Surf Breaks


What’s so Great About San Diego Anyway?