Incorporation of Spatial and Economic Analyses of Human-Use Data in the Design of Marine Protected Areas
Social, economic, and ecological criteria contribute to the successful design, implementation, and management of marine protected areas (MPAs). In the context of California's Marine Life Protection Act Initiative, we developed a set of methods for collecting, compiling, and analyzing data about the spatial extent and relative economic importance of commercial and recreational fishing. We interviewed 174 commercial fishers who represented the major fisheries in the initiative's north-central coast region, which extends from Point Arena south to Pigeon Point. These fishers provided data that we used to map the extent of each of the fishing grounds, to weight the relative importance of areas within the grounds, to characterize the operating costs of each fishery, and to analyze the potential economic losses associated with proposed marine protected areas. A regional stakeholder group used the maps and impact analyses in conjunction with other data sets to iteratively identify economic and ecological trade-offs in designations of different areas as MPAs at regional, port, and fishery extents. Their final proposed MPA network designated 20% of state waters as MPAs. Potential net economic loss ranged from 1.7% to 14.2% in the first round of network design and totaled 6.3% in the final round of design. This process is a case study in the application of spatial analysis to validate and integrate local stakeholder knowledge in marine planning.