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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Citizen Scientists’ View of Marine Protected Areas


Marine Protected Area (MPA) Watch community science program has been collecting human use data in and around California Marine Protected Areas (MPA) since the completion of California’s MPA network in 2012. Human use data is useful in understanding the value of MPAs to the public and in assisting management decisions. MPAs regulate consumptive uses, defined as any use resulting in “Take” (to hunt, pursue, catch, capture, or kill, or attempt to hunt, pursue, catch, capture, or kill of organism) (Fish and Game Code Section 86). MPA Watch data consist of consumptive and nonconsumptive uses (uses that do not result in “Take”). Nonconsumptive recreational uses consisting of 50-80% of all MPA Watch recorded uses. The analysis shows that individual MPAs have unique use compositions, which can help inform beach goers when choosing to visit a MPA. Surveys show that consumptive uses make up less than 1% of all uses inside Southern California MPAs. Consumptive uses have been recorded at different frequencies using three month seasonal intervals. Each MPA has a unique profile of consumptive uses and their frequencies, which can assist in the allocation of enforcement resources. MPA Watch data contains relatively low survey rates, the amount of surveyed days out of the total time surveyed. The highest surveyed site having a rate of 10% over 7 years. This can increase the difficulty of creating accurate representations of MPA usage. Increasing MPA Watch outreach and volunteers participation could lead to higher enrollment within the program and help to increase survey rate. MPA Watch data is a useful tool for education and management, and future analyses, as well as increasing data MPA Watch, could aid in the 2022 MPA management review.

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