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- MPA Watch is a citizen science program
- Volunteers collect scientific data on coastal and marine resource use
- Collected data helps inform MPA management and supports the California Department of Fish and Wildlife
Citizen Scientists Volunteering as Local Ocean Stewards
How to Volunteer
- Become an MPA Watch volunteer by attending the two-part training program: one classroom training and one field training session. Attendance at both sessions is mandatory. See the Training Schedule below to sign up!
- Contact Staff Scientist Dana Murray
MPA Watch Sponsor
In early 2011, Heal the Bay launched a citizen science program called MPA Watch. By walking along beaches in Malibu and Palos Verdes surveying ocean users, volunteers combine their love of the beach and ocean while collecting valuable scientific data.
Volunteers are trained to observe and collect unbiased data on coastal and marine resource use, which will provide important information to understand how people are using the newly established marine protected areas (MPAs), and to help inform MPA management. Heal the Bay held the first volunteer trainings (in the class and field) for this pilot program in March and August of 2011, and expanded to include bluffs and beaches in Palos Verdes in early 2012.
If you want to know more about the program or would like to find out about future training dates, contact Heal the Bay's Marine & Coastal Scientist Dana Murray.
What is citizen science?
Citizen Science engages trained volunteers in the collection of unbiased scientific information. Citizen science gets people involved with and interested in science, monitoring, and the natural world, while helping researchers by generating a great deal of data.
Are volunteers on the beach policing people?
No. MPA Watch volunteers are out observing and recording beach and ocean activities they see taking place as they walk along the beach. MPAs only regulate fishing and have nothing to do with public access, surfing, kayaking, or diving. MPA Watch is unbiased data collection, based solely on trained volunteer observations. This data will help with interpretation of biological data being taken inside and outside MPAs by other groups.
Who enforces MPAs?
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW), the lead agency charged with managing the state’s marine resources, is responsible for MPA enforcement. To report any illegal activities, such as poaching or polluting to the DFW, call 1-888-DFG-CALTIP (888-334-2258). In some areas local or federal government may partner with DFW to help enforce MPAs.
Why should MPAs be monitored?
The California Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) requires the state to design and manage an improved network of marine protected areas. The MLPA also requires monitoring to ensure that the MPA network meets the goals of the Act, to facilitate adaptive management of the MPAs, and to improve understanding of marine systems. Monitoring MPAs when they are newly established will provide a description, assessment and understanding of ecological and socioeconomic conditions inside and outside MPAs designated under the MLPA. Monitoring also measures the initial ecological changes and the short-run net benefits or costs to consumptive and non-consumptive user groups following MPA implementation.
Who monitors MPAs?
Monitoring is important to ensure that the MPA network meets the goals of the Marine Life Protection Act, to facilitate adaptive management of the MPAs, and to improve understanding of marine systems. Official monitoring groups will work closely with DFW, resource managers, scientists, researchers, citizen science groups in planning and implementing MPA monitoring. Ecology, economic, and ocean uses are a few areas that are monitored in MPAs.
Why isn’t Heal the Bay collecting biological or underwater data on fish life in and around MPAs?
Other local citizen science groups and scientists have been collecting biological scientific data on Malibu’s rocky reefs and marine life for years. However, we identified the data gap of monitoring how people are using the resources and started the MPA Watch program. We also saw this program as a great way for people who would like to help monitor MPAs, but can’t dive, to get involved.
What types of activities are MPA Watch volunteers recording?
MPA Watch volunteers are observing and recording both consumptive and non-consumptive offshore and onshore activities in and around MPAs, which will provide important information to understand how people are using these new MPAs and to help inform MPA management. Examples of activities volunteers record include consumptive activities such as commercial lobster fishing or shore fishing, and non-consumptive activities such as swimming or wildlife watching.
How can I get involved in local marine conservation and MPAs?
“Protected area management can only be effective if it is based on accurate knowledge on how people are affecting the resources within the protected area.”
Dr. Peter Mous
The Nature Conservancy
There are several ways to get involved in educating others about MPAs, marine conservation, or helping to monitor MPAs.
- Become a marine steward of your favorite MPA and volunteer to complete MPA Watch surveys on the beach through Heal the Bay.
- Help restore our natural ecosystems and volunteer to help with kelp forest restoration projects through LA Waterkeeper.
- Dive underwater to collect data on local fish populations by conducting underwater scientific surveys through the Reef Check Foundation.
- Spread the word to others about why MPAs are important and where they are.
- To educate and help monitor California’s natural resources, become a Department of Fish and Wildlife Natural Resource Volunteer.