Commercial Fishing Grounds and Their Relative Importance Off the Central Coast of California
Authors: Astrid Scholz, Ecotrust; Charles Steinback, Ecotrust; Mike Mertens, Ecotrust
April 20, 2006
Ecotrust was retained by Marine Life Protection Act Initiative (MLPAI) in May of 2005 to collect, compile and analyze fishery data in support of the Central Coast Project (see Appendix 1, scope of work).
During the summer of 2005, our research team developed and deployed a local knowledge interview instrument, using an interactive, custom computer interface, to collect geo-referenced information about the extent and relative importance of central coast commercial fisheries. In the fall and winter of 2005/06, we compiled these data in a geographic information system (GIS) that we delivered to the MLPAI for integration into a central geodatabase housed at the University of California at Santa Barbara. We analyzed the fishery data and additional data provided to us by the California Department of Fish and Game to estimate first-order maximum potential impacts of proposed marine protected area networks developed in the MLPA process.
This report completes our deliverables, complementing the data and analytical deliverables already forwarded to the MLPAI under the terms of our contract. It details the approach and methods used for collecting, compiling and analyzing commercial fisheries data in the central coast. We further discuss the results and deliverables from this project. It is important to note, however, that the analysis conducted under the scope of this contract is not the sum total of everything that could be done with the database and the information contained therein. Indeed, the analysis conducted to date is suggestive of many more questions and research directions than could be pursued in the timeframe. We hope that this project not only makes a useful contribution to the MLPA process, but also opens the door to further inquiry drawing on the expert knowledge of fishermen and other mariners.
Conducting qualitative research in coastal communities is as challenging as it is rewarding. Asking sensitive questions about people's livelihoods, and doing so at the height of the summer fishing season and during a frequently contentious policy process should have been daunting. That it wasn't speaks to the commitment and generosity of the fishing community. We have learned a tremendous amount from the participants in this study, and the countless other community members, stakeholders, and observers of the MLPA process.
We are deeply thankful to the 109 fishermen who participated in the interviews—making time in their busy schedules, overcoming sometimes considerable reservations, and sharing their knowledge and experience with us. We thank all the members of the Central Coast Regional Stakeholder Group and the MLPAI staff, and are especially grateful to Jeremiah and Trudi O'Brien and Kirk Sturm for facilitating several project meetings in Morro Bay, Rick Algert, Jay Elder, and Tom Ghio for memorable boat trips, Steve Scheiblauer for the use of his office for project meetings in Monterey, and Paul Reilly for countless close readings of our data and results.
We believe that this project makes a significant, new contribution to the knowledge base on the coast—not just for marine protected area planning, but for enhancing the public's and decision-makers' understanding of the importance of the coastal ocean to coastal communities and economies.
Download PDF version (780kb)