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Pacific Coastal & Marine Science Center

California Seafloor Mapping Program

California Seafloor Mapping Program

The California Seafloor Mapping Program (CSMP) is a cooperative program to create a comprehensive coastal/marine geologic and habitat base map series for all of California’s State waters. The Ocean Protection Council authorized funds to establish the CSMP in 2007 (OPC, 2007) and assembled a team of experts from state and federal agencies, academia, and private industry to develop the best approach to mapping and classifying estuarine and marine geologic habitats, while at the same time updating all nautical charts. Initiated in 2008, the CSMP is collecting bathymetry (underwater topography) and backscatter data (providing insight into the geologic makeup of the seafloor) that will be turned into habitat and geologic base maps for all of California’s state waters (mean high water line out to three nautical miles). Although the CSMP was originally developed to support the design and monitoring of marine reserves through the Marine Life Protection Act (CDFG, 2007), accurate statewide mapping of the seafloor will:

  • Improve climate change and ocean circulation models.
  • Help evaluate the potential for ocean energy.
  • Improve our understanding of ecosystem dynamics.
  • Identify submerged faults and improve our understanding of tsunami potential.
  • Enable more effective regulation of offshore development.
  • Improve maritime safety.
  • Improve our understanding of sediment transport and sand delivery.

CSMP focus is to fund ship-based collection of high-resolution sonar data, the undersea equivalent of satellite remote sensing data in terrestrial mapping. The CSMP plan is based largely on earlier findings and recommendations of a State-wide Marine Mapping Planning Workshop (Kvitek et al., 2006) attended by coastal and marine managers and scientists. That workshop established geographic priorities for a coastal mapping project and identified the need for coverage of “lands” from the strand line (MHHW) out to the 3 nmi (5.6 km) State water limit. A subsequent May 2007 USGS-hosted Coastal Map Development Workshop helped define the CSMP comprehensive mapping approach.

The CSMP is a cooperative partnership between State, Federal agencies, Universities, and Industry including,

Data collected during this project reveal the seafloor offshore of the California coast in unprecedented detail (for example, see linked movie below) and provide an ecosystem context for the effective management of this precious marine resource. The partnership with NOAA Office of Coast Surveys will also result in updated digital nautical charts for all state waters. This website monitors the progress of the project as well as gives a background to the different data collection operations and mapping products.

CSMP fly-by movie

Click on the above icon to view a movie that flies over the seafloor from Bolinas to Pescadero in central California.

Please also visit California State University, Monterey Bay - CSMP site.


  1. CDFG, 2007, California Marine Life Protection Act master plan for marine protected areas. Revised draft April 13, 2007, California Department of Fish and Game.
  2. Kvitek, Rikk, Bretz, Carrie, Cochrane, Guy, and Greene, Gary, 2006, Final Report:  Statewide Marine Mapping Planning Workshop:  Seafloor Mapping Lab, California State University, Monterey Bay,
  3. OPC, 2007, California Ocean Protection Council, mapping/1007COPC07_seafloor mapping.pdf


For more information, contact Guy Cochrane or Sam Johnson.

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