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Research Technical Report

A Review Of Research Programs In Central California Coastal Managed Areas With A Suggestion For Improved Collaboration

DeVogelaere, A.P., and R.C. Green (1998)

In: O.T. Magoon, H. Converse, B. Baird, and M. Miller-Henson (editors), California and the World Ocean '97: Taking a look at California's ocean resources: an agenda for the future. American Society of Civil Engineers, p. 99-104.


Between Pt. Reyes, located north of San Francisco, and Cambria, at the southern end of the Big Sur coast, there are over 30 managed coastal areas. These areas are designated as sanctuaries, reserves, preserves, refuges, wildlife areas, and parks. A review of these coastal programs found they have similar goals and overlapping jurisdictions. However, programs that incorporated scientific advisory groups had more current management plans, a broader view of resource management alternatives, larger research budgets, and a wider variety of research activities. These programs were developed, in large part, independently of each other and based on local history more than a comprehensive resource management vision. There is great opportunity for collaboration between these programs to improve their individual and common goals. The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS), encompassing most of the coastline in central California, has a programmatic structure of working groups and advisory councils that take advantage of insight from academic scientists, multiple resource management agencies, user group representatives, and education specialists. The MBNMS may be the forum for improved collaboration between programs and an avenue to academic scientists in the development of science plans and enacting necessary research.


One of the main purposes the California and the World Ocean '97 conference is to develop ways to improve management of coastal resources. Research is a critical component of resource management, as it provides the technical information needed for fact based decision making, a way to find solutions to resource management problems, a source of information for education programs, and, with monitoring, a way to assess "health" of the environment. The central California coast is a region with world-renowned research programs (e.g., Griggs 1995; Guerrero and Kvitek 1996) and boasts numerous protected and managed areas (Figure 1). The purpose of this review was to assess the role that research played in resource management programs and to suggest opportunities for improved coastal stewardship, if necessary.


The methods of this review were to develop a list of coastal managed areas, then to gather information on the role of research at each location. Several reliable lists of coastal management designation are available (Research Planning Inc. 1994, California Coastal Commission 1997). For each location, information was compiled on the program goals, the size and location of the managed area, the status of management plans, the status of research priorities, the use of scientific advisory committees, accomplishments in research, regulatory authority, staff size and budget. These information assessment categories were evaluated using written questionnaires, telephone interviews, site visits, existing public documents, and extensive personal knowledge of coastal programs that the authors have for the central California region.


The numerous coastal programs were found to have similar goals and overlapping jurisdictions. All of the programs focused on resource protection and most had significant components for public education. Some research was occurring at almost all of the sites. Interestingly, the programs, in large part, operate independently of each other (even if within the same agency but at a different locations) and developed more as an artifact of local history than because of a comprehensive coastal management vision.

There was a distinct difference in programs that used scientific advisors (either with designated committees in the management structure or through numerous informal contacts) versus those that did not. Programs with science advisors (PWSA) had more general research goals, focusing on applied problems, than programs without science advisors (PW/OSA) which had specific research efforts on mostly exotic species removal and directing human traffic. PWSA had more frequent updates of management plans and research priorities, while maintaining larger research budgets and leveraging outside grants. PW/OSA used mostly staff time and forms of match other than funds for research. Common research activities at PWSA included developing comprehensive plans, publishing results, monitoring habitats, and addressing specific applied problems while studying topics in general science. PW/OSA focused largely on monitoring particular species of concern, controlling exotic species, restoration and water quality monitoring.


It is clear that coastal management programs benefit from having scientific advisors, and this asset is available with limited investment. Some programs have frequent contacts with academic scientists interested in specific resource management issues, without formal routes for input. Taking advantage of this resource simply involves an openness to outside input on a management program, and the initiative to contact regional scientific expertise and explain the benefits of their involvement. Some benefits to the scientist may include an avenue to serve the public, an interesting problem for them or their students, volunteers to assist in their research, secure research sites, equipment, or funds.

Programs which desire a more formal process for scientific council, or those not familiar with their regional scientific resources, may want to collaborate with the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS) Research Activities Panel (RAP). This group of representatives, from 20 research organizations (see Table 1), meets monthly to address issues of concern to the MBNMS and to collaborate on research endeavors. Many of the issues of concern to the MBNMS are likely relevant to other central California coastal managed areas, and the MBNMS is adjacent to or overlaps the boundaries of at least 20 other programs. The meetings are open to the public, rotate in location between institutions, and agendas are announced by electronic mail.

The MBNMS RAP benefits both the Sanctuary Program and the scientists who serve on the panel. The MBNMS RAP wrote most of the Sanctuary Science Plan (MBNMSRAC, 1993), has provided reviews on numerous management issues (e.g., analyzing potential impacts of coastal development projects and management options for biological resources), contributed extensively to the text and editing of a comprehensive review of sanctuary resources (Guerrero and Kvitek, 1996), acted as a source for specific technical information (e.g., sea conditions related to vessel grounding events), trained volunteers, developed monitoring programs, and served as "ambassadors" for the program goals. The RAP members benefit from the MBNMS in several ways, including administrative support for monthly meetings that facilitates inter-institution collaboration, organized presentations on topics of interest, access to MBNMS resources such as ship time, access to a network of electronic mail lists and regional scientific directories, updates on regional and national initiatives and grants, some small MBNMS research grants, opportunities for their students who are interested in applied research problems, and opportunities to influence public policy. The MBNMS RAP is linked programmatically with similar working groups in education and conservation, a political council of with representative from numerous interest groups (e.g., industry, agriculture, fishing, other government agencies), and Sanctuaries and Reserved Headquarters in Washington DC (see a related paper in this same volume by T. Jackson).

More extensive use of the already successful MBNMS RAP would help achieve the California and the World Ocean '97 conference goal of comprehensive and integrated coastal management, and this is also a model for other regions on how to involve science in their programs.


We gratefully appreciate the invitation from Deborah McArdle and Richard Starr to participate in the Marine Managed Areas session. Michele Jacobi provided refreshing comments to the manuscript and formatted the text for publication.

Literature Cited

California Coastal Commission. 1997. Coastal Access Guide. University of California Press.

Griggs, G. 1995, Monterey Bay, national center for marine science. Sea Technology. May.

Guerrero, J. and R. Kvitek. Editors. 1996. Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Site Characterization.

MBNMSRAC, Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Research Advisory Committee. 1993. Scientific research plan for the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.; National Ocean Service, Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management, Sanctuaries and Reserves Division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 55pp.

Research Planning Inc. 1994. Sensitivity of coastal environment and wildlife to spilled oil: central California. Maps prepared for Office of Oil Spill Prevention and Response, California Department of Fish and Game; Hazardous Materials Response and Assessment Division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Cite as: DeVogelaere, A.P. and R.C. Green. 1998. A review of research programs in central California coastal managed areas with a suggestion for improved collaboration. In: O.T. Magoon, H. Converse, B. Baird, and M. Miller-Henson (editors), California and the World Ocean '97: Taking a look at California's ocean resources: an agenda for the future. American Society of Civil Engineers. p. 99-104.

Reviewed: April 11, 2024
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