Starting in March 2011, MPA Watch was launched in San Luis Obispo, Monterey and Santa Cruz to monitor for compliance with MPA regulations and help enforcement agencies and scientists understand the ways in which people are using the coastline inside MPAs and adjacent areas.
“Considering the program has been running for only 15 months, it is a remarkable achievement to have gathered so much data in such a short period of time,” said Brad Hunt, Program Manager of The Otter Project’s MPA Watch Program.
Following a pilot program in 2010, volunteers began surveying at strategic sites along the coast, observing a range of activities from regular beach goers and divers to surfers and commercial fishing boats close to shore.
“This is easily the most successful program of its kind in the state and plays a vital role in helping to promote ocean stewardship among Central Coast residents at a time when resources are scarce and funding is tight,” said Hunt.
The data collected by volunteers is compiled and made available to the public via The Otter Project’s website in the form of maps and reports indicating usage patterns at key locations.
It is anticipated that this data will help the Department of Fish and Game’s enforcement efforts in the region by identifying potential hotspots of human activity.
“We’re in talks right now with a number of different ocean groups about their own MPA Watch programs and sharing our expertise and lessons learned during the last year. Looking forward we would love to see it grow to include areas along the California coast north of Point Reyes,” said Hunt.
Residents looking to participate in the MPA Watch program can contact Mark Welden-Smith on 831-646-8837 x116 or visit www.otterproject.org for more details.