Monterey has built its reputation on abundant marine resources and scenic bay waters. Visitors flock to see the sea otters, visit the world-renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium, and stroll along Steinbeck’s Cannery Row. Because Monterey draws its very identity from the marine environment, it comes as no surprise that the area’s residents are deeply engaged in ocean stewardship.
Monterey County is home to seventeen state marine protected areas (MPAs), more MPAs than any other county in the state. A group of community members known as the Monterey MPA Collaborative supports their portion of the statewide MPA Network by lending a bottom-up stakeholder’s voice to the state MPA Management Program. Members contribute local knowledge and offer creative solutions to connect the public with Monterey-area MPAs.
The Monterey MPA Collaborative is currently co-chaired by Erika Delemarre and Amy Brandt from California State Parks, and Julia O’Hern from the Marine Mammal Center. Its membership reflects a diverse set of MPA stakeholders, including state and federal government agencies, non-profits, local businesses, research institutions, education programs, and independent volunteers.
The Monterey MPA Collaborative hopes to add members from the local tribal and fishing communities, where representation is currently lacking. “Each person contributes a unique perspective and valuable experience to the work we do,” said Delemarre. “The more diversity and experience we have at the table, the more successful we will be in raising awareness of these special areas while working together to protect them for future generations.”
The Collaborative focuses its efforts on MPA education and outreach. Most recently, its members produced a bilingual English and Spanish coloring book featuring marine species that are protected within MPAs as well as the fundamental science of MPAs. It has also worked with the California Marine Sanctuary Foundation to develop MPA outreach materials such as brochures and laminated maps specific to the Monterey area.
Another project that Collaborative members contributed to is the Parks Online Resource for Teachers and Students (PORTS) program. Recognizing that not everyone has access to the awe-inspiring natural beauty of California’s MPAs and state parks, the PORTS program leverages the power of videoconferencing to host virtual field trips for schoolchildren.
In many locations, MPAs lie adjacent to California State Parks. For example, Point Lobos State Marine Reserve and State Marine Conservation Area protect the waters around Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, just south of Monterey. Through the PORTS program, Collaborative members have helped introduce Point Lobos, both above and below water, to students and teachers located in other parts of the state, country, and world. In partnership with National Geographic and SoFar Ocean’s Science Exploration Education (S.E.E.) Initiative, the Monterey MPA Collaborative used Trident underwater drones to livestream a dive into the kelp forest at Whaler’s Cove in Point Lobos State Marine Reserve.
The Monterey MPA Collaborative is part of a larger statewide MPA Collaborative Network, with 14 local collaboratives loosely organized by coastal county. Anyone is welcome to join an MPA collaborative, attend meetings, and help with projects. MPA collaboratives are always looking to expand their membership and increase stakeholder representation. If you’d like to get involved, please find an MPA collaborative near you and reach out to the co-chairs to join the mailing list and ask about their next meeting.
post by Chenchen Shen, CDFW Environmental Scientist