MPA Watch is up and running!

This last weekend was a busy one for The Otter Project & Monterey Coastkeeper–but also a successful one! With our first official training, we launched MPA Watch, a citizen monitoring network for Marine Protected Areas (MPA) in the central coast. Volunteers are equipped with data sheets, binoculars, and a list of activity codes, and asked to record the different types of resource use they see in and around the MPA.

I was a bit worried on Friday, as the rain beat against my window–part of our Saturday training included field work, in which we would walk the shore of a local MPA. But the weather turned overnight (you gotta love the Central Coast…) and Saturday was a perfect, if not slightly chilly day to be out by the shore.

We weren’t the only ones that thought so, which was a great way for our volunteers to learn how to identify activities and resource use! Some of the activities we saw are pretty normal and what you’d expect to see on a beautiful spring day in Monterey…SCUBA divers, kayakers, tidepoolers…We also saw the Monterey Bay Fireboat, some fishing boats (all legal) and sailboats.

Probably the best unexpected use was a couple making out on the beach. I hope we didn’t ruin their moment, as we all gathered around with our clipboards, and one volunteer wondered out loud, “do we have a code for that?”

As my friend pointed out over lunch on Sunday, that shouldn’t be unexpected. “This is the kind of place people come to for romantic getaways,” she pointed out. “You might NEED a code for that…”

Good point. And after all, we’re hoping that our study captures not just the negative uses (noncompliance and illegal fishing), but also tells the story of ALL the myriad reasons people come to visit MPAs. I mean, who wants to make out in a barren fishing ground? A beautiful, vibrant marine park teeming with life sounds much more appealing.

We can’t wait to see what other bizarre and interesting uses of the MPAs come up…although we hope they’re legal.

AND we’re still looking for more volunteers to help us make this program a success. Remember, a volunteer shift involves walking a section of BEAUTIFUL coastline regularly a couple times a week–so it’s an excuse to get outdoors and explore your MPAs. You can check out our volunteer page  for more information.

A few of our volunteers were disappointed that this project doesn’t directly involve spotting otters–but I think one or two shifts walking along the coast should dispell that. Not only have I seen otters, but sea lions, harbor seals, pelicans, cormorants, and even a few whales! We might not ask you to write it down, but they serve as a reminder of why we’re doing this in the first place.

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About Allison

I am the new Executive Director of The Otter Project in Monterey, California! Originally from the Bay Area, I went to school in San Diego, and came back north to Monterey for graduate school, where I found my calling: saving sea otters! Working for The Otter Project combines my passion for environmental policy with my love of animals. When not advocating for sea otters, I enjoy yoga, volunteer wildlife rehab, reading, and spending time with my cat Alyssa, who, for the record, I did not name. I have been with The Otter Project since November of 2007.
This entry was posted in Marine Protected Areas, MPA Watch, Outreach and Awareness, Programs of The Otter Project and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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