Areas of Special Biological Significance

Areas of Special Biological Significance (ASBS) are areas of the ocean that support a unique variety of marine life, and have thus been designated as particularly worthy of protection from pollution and degraded water quality. An area designated an ASBS is protected from pollution, and may not be discharged into.

The State Water Resources Control Board, the entity that designates and manages our ASBS, describes ASBS as follows: “They support an unusual variety of aquatic life, and often host unique individual species. ASBS are basic building blocks for a sustainable, resilient coastal environment and economy.”

Creation of Areas of Special Biological Significance

While clean water is a necessary component of healthy oceans, water quality is constantly threatened 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 implemented several outreach campaigns in support of raising awareness of local ASBS and the unique marine life within them. Additionally, we have collaborated with local partners on a variety of on-the-ground projects, such as incorporating low impact development techniques into constructed surfaces along the La Jolla shores area and Scripps Institution of Oceanography and University California, San Diego campuses. We also work to encourage community participation in habits and behaviors that are protective of water quality within our ASBS. 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.