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Major activities include recreational boating, recreational fishing, diving, surfing, sightseeing, hiking and nature observation. In 1992, coastal tourism and recreation generated about $9.9 billion in spending in all coastal counties, mainly from travel-related spending on gas, cars, food, and hotels. MBNMS counties generated $634.9 million in spending; about 6% of the state's total (Resources Agency 1995). The number of tourists and revenues from tourism have generally increased in MBNMS counties over the last decade (San Luis Obispo Council of Governments 1995, ABAG 1994a, AMBAG 1994).

A. Recreational boating

Recreational boating with motor-powered, sail-powered, and hand-powered (e.g. kayak and canoe) vessels occurs throughout MBNMS waters, with greater densities around major harbors. As of summer 1995, recreational boat berths were full at all harbors, with waiting lists (S. Shiblar, B. Foss, L. Stephan, R. Johnson, pers. comm.).

Recreational boating has dramatically increased in California and in MBNMS, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) projects that boat usage in MBNMS will continue to increase (Dornbusch & Co. 1994). In California, the number of registered boats increased between 40% and 60% from 1978 to 1991, and rose from 227,000 boats registered in the state in 1960 to 811,545 in 1993. The fastest rate of growth occured in the late 1980's. The number of registered boats has increased in Monterey, Santa Cruz, and San Luis Obispo counties and decreased in San Francisco and San Mateo counties (Dornbusch & Co. 1994). Note that non-motorized boats such as kayaks and canoes are not registered, so numbers cited here are incomplete estimates of total recreational boat use.

icon icon Aside from registration and safe boating requirements, recreational boating is largely unregulated. However, restrictions on Motorized Personal Watercraft- commonly known as jet skis - were stipulated in the MBNMS Final Environmental Impact Statement (NOAA 1992) and recently upheld on appeal. One documented account of jet ski harassment of sea otters in the MBNMS resulted in legal proceedings (E. Faurot-Daniels pers. comm; USFWS 1993).

Jet skis have proliferated since their introduction in 1974. In 1994 they comprised one-half of recreational boating sales in California, and California's 91,000 registered jet skis comprise 11% of all registered motorized recreational vessels. (Dornbusch & Co. 1994). NOAA recently restricted jet ski use to four designated areas (Figure 3a,3b,3c and 3d). However, the designated areas have not yet been buoyed and no enforcement personnel have been assigned (S. Cathey, pers. comm.).

icon icon Direct information on the impacts of recreational boats on MBNMS marine resources is limited; no controlled in-situ studies have been performed. According to NOAA, however, research drawn from other Pacific coastal areas "appears to substantiate growing concern over the potential impacts" of recreational boating on wildlife." (Dornbusch & Co. 1994). Nearshore areas around harbors are particularly vulnerable (Figure 4).

Motorized vessels and hand-powered boats (kayaks and canoes) have been shown to disturb and/or lower reproductive success in a range of pinniped, whale, and bird species when operated too closely to these animals. Studies in Three Arch Rocks National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, in Glacier Bay National Park, in Muir Inlet, Alaska, and in other areas have reported behavioral disturbance and reproductive disruption and depression in a wide variety of marine species. These effects include birds fleeing nesting sites leaving chicks and eggs exposed to weather and predators; orcas and minke whales changing swimming speed and direction; and hauled-out harbor seals crushing and abandoning pups when scrambling back into the water (see review in Dornbusch & Co. 1994).

icon Contrary to popular perception, non-motorized vessels such as kayaks and canoes can have as much or more of an effect on wildlife and habitats as motorized vessels. Dornbusch & Co. (1994) report that kayaks and canoes can often get closer to shore and can access more remote sites than motorized vessels, and their quiet approach is speculated to have a stalking effect on wildlife. This review (Dornbusch & Co. 1994) also reports that in a study conducted in Woodward bay, Washington, seals flushed from their haulouts more readily in response to the approaching kayaks than motorized vessels. In Bolinas Lagoon, Califonia, two separate studies respectively documented that 33% and 56% of observed disturbances were attributable to hand-powered vessels, as far away as 300 meters from the seals. The second study reported that hand-powered vessels were the most common harbor seal disturbant. In some areas of Elkhorn Slough, kayakers have trampled sensitive marsh areas when pulling up on shore. US Fish and Wildlife Service staff have observed kayakers disturbing elephant seals, sea lions, and brown pelicans in other areas of the MBNMS.

Such reports are of special concern given the rapidly growing popularity of kayaking. One MBNMS kayak business owner noted that business increased nearly 100% since their opening in 1985, and that 100 people per day rent from their outfit - which is one of three local kayak rental businesses - on busy summer weekends (C. Chrock pers. comm.). This indicates a need for a better understanding of the potential impacts of kayaking on MBNMS resources.

B. Recreational fishing

Recreational fishing takes place throughout MBNMS from commercial passenger vessels (party boats), private boats, beach and shore, and by diver spearfishing. From 1981-1986, party boat fishing was the most productive mode, in terms of pounds of fish landed, and private boat fishing the most popular mode in terms of total number of fishing days in northern and central California (CDFG 1995a). Pounds landed and number of fishing-days have not been calculated specifically for MBNMS.

Fish may be taken by hook-and-line (from boats and shore) or by spearfishing. It is estimated that about 25 party boats taking at least 10 trips a year have been operating in MBNMS from the late 1980's until the present (NOAA 1992; D. Wilson-Vandenburg pers. comm.). Party boats operate primarily out of Moss Landing, Monterey, and Santa Cruz harbors (NOAA 1992). San Francisco operators may fish in MBNMS waters but this information is not readily available (D. Wilson-Vandenburg pers. comm.).

Major species groups taken include rockfish, salmon, lingcod, mackerel, surfperches and jacksmelt (CDFG 1994, NOAA 1992). While catch composition varies from year to year depending upon fish availability, weather conditions, fishing effort, and other variables, rockfish dominate the average annual catch in terms of total pounds landed (Karpov et al. 1995) Restrictions on salmon fishing and declines in salmon abundance may have contributed to an increase in rockfishing effort (CDFG 1994, Torquemada 1994).

Many trends in recreational fishing cannot be readily identified. Monitoring of the California marine sport fishery has been patchy in time and space, sampling methods have varied, and surveys are scattered among agencies. However, the California Dept. of Fish and Game (CDFG) initiated the Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey in 1980 to standardize studies and compile data for all non-salmon recreational fishing effort in California (Karpov et al. 1995). Salmon statistics are compiled separately by CDFG and delivered to the Pacific Fishery Management Council, which annually publishes recreational and commercial salmon landing statistics.

Via the federal Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey, CDFG has analyzed trends in recreational fishing in northern and central California between 1958-1961 and 1981-1986, where some of the best data are available. The geographic scope is northern and central California, from Humboldt through San Luis Obispo counties. Information specific to MBNMS counties is not readily available for most data sets. The authors indicate that the data are to be interpreted with caution due to uncontrolled variables such as differences in sampling design among surveys and questionable reliability of some surveys (Karpov et al. 1995).

According to these data (Karpov et al. 1995), recreational fishing effort increased 65% between the 1958-61 period and the 1981-86 period, from 1,628,000 fishing days to 2,685,000 fishing days. Catch by weight increased 98% between these time periods. Catches actually decreased from shore fishing modes and dramatically increased in boat fishing modes. The proportion of pounds of fish landed in the recreational versus the commercial fishery did not change dramatically between the time periods, though the total pounds taken greatly increased for both modes. Recreational fishing accounted for 6.6% and 8.0%, respectively, of the combined commercial and recreational catch in 1958-61 and 1981-86. The commercial catch averaged 38,000 metric tons in 1958-61, and 62,000 metric tons in 1981-1986; the recreational catch averaged 2700 metric tons in 1958-61 and 5400 metric tons in 1981-86.

Rockfish dominated the recreational boat catch in both time periods, and rockfish catch rose from 1.3 million fish to 3.4 million fish between the two time periods. Private boat rockfish catch increased seven times, party boat rockfish catch doubled, and the spearfishing catch of rockfish doubled from 10,000 to 20,000 fish taken annually. Blue and yellowtail rockfish comprised 31% by weight of the annual recreational catch. The Monterey Bay area had the largest share of the total rockfish catch (Karpov et al. 1995).

Recreational catch of salmon and lingcod also increased between the time periods. Salmon catch increased 57% and lingcod catch rose by 74% between the time periods. From 1981-1986 lingcod landings were highest in Santa Cruz/Monterey areas relative to all of northern and central California (Karpov et al. 1995).

The potential impacts of recreational fishing on abundance and diversity of target species, and on marine communities, is discussed below after the section on commercial fishing.

C. Recreational diving

Recreational diving grew quickly in the U.S. and in the MBNMS (R. Gallagher pers. comm.) in the 1980's. The Monterey Bay area in particular is a world-renowned dive destination, particular. An estimated 70% of all dives from the southern tip of the MBNMS to Oregon occurs in the stretch between Cannery Row in Monterey to Point Lobos State Reserve south of Carmel. Other popular dive spots include Carmel Bay Ecological Reserve and Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park (NOAA 1992). An unofficial guide to these and other popular MBNMS dive locations is available in local dive shops (E. Cooper pers. comm.).

The Northern California Diver's Association estimates that the number of divers in the central coast rose 10-20% in the 1980's, and 5-7% in the 1990's (R. Gallagher pers. comm.). Dive shops from Monterey Bay to Santa Rosa (north of MBNMS) made $14 million in retail sales in 1994, plus about $5 million in associated revenues such as lessons and boats. An estimated 95% of this revenue was generated in the Monterey Bay area (R. Gallagher pers. comm.). This value complements the findings of another study estimating scuba and snorkeling revenue at $13.2 million dollars in 1988 for San Mateo, Santa Cruz, and Monterey counties (Meyer Resources 1990).

Regional divers and other interested parties have recently organized in support of an effort to establish a no-fishing zone off Cannery Row in Monterey (between the Coast Guard jetty and Lover's Point to a depth of 60 feet). The initiative has been supported by regional dive shops and the Northern California Diver's Association, who allege that the big reef fish (e.g. rockfish) dive tourists want to see have been selectively removed through nearshore longline, hook-and-line and spearfishing. Public hearings on the initiative have been held by the City of Monterey (E. Cooper pers. comm.).

The potential impacts of diving on MBNMS resources have not been assessed. Potential impacts include depletion of and disturbance to marine wildlife, and illegal removal of benthic fauna such as mollusks. Dive spearfishing in northern and central California doubled between the late 1950's and the mid-1980's (Karpov et al. 1995). Spearfishers tend to target large shallow water fishes, especially lingcod and rockfishes. Selective removal of large individuals which may be reproductively mature, followed by continued removal of smaller immature fishes, may be impacting local populations at popular reef diving spots such as Chase Reef in Monterey Bay, where few mature rockfish now occur (D. Gotshall pers. comm., C. Haugen pers. comm.).

D. Intertidal collecting

Intertidal collecting has occurred along the central coast for thousands of years. Costanoan Indians collected abalone, mussels, limpets, and other invertebrates, leaving hundreds of shell midden sites along the MBNMS coast (Gordon 1996, Margolin 1978). Large-scale collecting documented during this century attests to the former abundance of intertidal invertebrates. More than 3 million pounds of red abalone were taken each year in the early 1930's, and many tons of Pismo clams were taken from Monterey Bay beaches for fertilizer around the turn of the century (Gordon 1996). As a result of combined harvests by humans and sea otters (whose local population rebounded from heavy exploitation during this century; see Marine Mammals section), Pismo clams in the MBNMS are currently too scarce to support commercial exploitation (see Sandy Beach section).

Limited information is available on the impact of past and current rocky intertidal collecting in MBNMS (see Rocky Intertidal Habitats section; Fish and Game Commission 1972) but such impacts have been demonstrated elsewhere. Characteristic impacts of human use include reductions in the diversity, abundance, and individual size of several intertidal species (Carney & Kvitek 1995, Castilla & Duran 1985, Oliva & Castilla 1986).

Regulations protecting intertidal animals throughout the coast were enacted in 1972 (CDFG 1972) and have since been revised periodically. Pismo clam, razor clam, gaper clam, Washington clam, California mussel, abalone, and sea cucumber collecting takes place along exposed shores as well as lagoons and estuaries within the MBNMS, and is regulated by seasonal and bag limits issued by CDFG (Leet et al. 1992).

E. Surfing

The central coast of California is one of the most popular surfing areas in the world. California is home to about 45% of the nation's 1.6 million surfers (Surf Industry Manufacturer's Association 1995), and surfing has occured since the turn of the century at over 50 spots along the central coast, especially Pacific Grove, Moss Landing, the mouth of the Big Sur River and Santa Cruz. Most surfers live near surf sites but many travel from the San Francisco Bay area to central coast surf sites (Meyer Resources 1990).

Data on regional number and revenues generated by surfers have not been systematically compiled (T. LaHue pers. comm.). A major surf shop operator estimates that there are between 30 and 40 surf shops between Morro Bay and south San Francisco, with 40-50% of sales occurring in the Santa Cruz area. The shop operator's three stores alone generate $2 million annually from surf product sales (M. Racatelli pers. comm.), and special annual events such as tournaments generate up to $2 million dollars (NOAA 1992).

Surfing organizations which promote surfing and work to protect the nearshore environment are supported locally. There are 600-700 local members of the Surfrider Foundation, a national organization with over 22,000 members nationwide. Surfrider Foundation was founded to minimize pollution of the nearshore marine environment by 1) fecal coliform bacteria originating from treatment facilities and septic leaks, and 2) industrial inputs such as pulp mill effluent. Surfrider Foundation has initiated a number of lawsuits against public and private facilities, and the Santa Cruz County Sentinel publishes both state monitoring data and Surfrider's water quality findings (coliform bacteria levels) on a weekly basis (T. LaHue pers. comm.).

F. Nature observation and ecotourism

The central coast draws naturalists and appreciators of nature from all over the world. Birdwatching, whalewatching, tidepool walking, and hiking are popular along the coastal city, county, and state parks, in Elkhorn Slough and many other coastal locations (California Coastal Commission [CCC] 1987, NOAA 1992, Meyer Resources 1990).

Revenue generated by these activities has not been systematically compiled for MBNMS, though efforts are being made to assess regional trends in these activities collectively known as "ecotourism" (R. Saunders pers. comm.). One estimate compiled from local coastal plans indicates that expenditures on "nature appreciation" and "visiting scenic areas" in San Mateo, Santa Cruz, and Monterey counties were $63.2 million dollars in 1988 (Meyer Resources 1990).

State parks are one of the central coast's major attractions. The Parks Department reports that attendance and revenues have settled back to early 1980's levels after an upward pulse in the mid-80's (Table 1). Local revenues decreased from a high of about $75 million per yearin the mid 1980's to about $65 million in the mid 1990's (CA Department of Parks and Recreation 1995). Visitation to Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve, a popular birdwatching area, has increased significantly, from about 20,000 visitors in 1985 to about 50,000 in 1995. This is a conservative estimate; many more visit the natural areas of the larger Elkhorn Slough region (S. Kimple pers. comm.).

Kayaking has greatly increased in popularity (see II.a.), as has whalewatching (Hoyt 1995). Santa Cruz harbor reports an increase in the number and proportion of whalewatching tour boats and participants in the last several years (B. Foss pers. comm., A. Shake pers. comm.).

Impacts of ecotourism can include disturbance to wildlife and trampling of sensitive areas such as wetlands, mudflats, and sand dunes (State Lands Commission 1994). One study near Santa Cruz on the impact of the public on intertidal communities found a higher species diversity and abundance at less accessible sites (Beauchamp and Gowing 1982). Despite the paucity of MBNMS-specific data on these impacts, such impacts have been demonstrated elsewhere, and efforts are underway to educate the public as to the sensitivity of certain habitats and ways to minimize damage related to ecotourism. Educational programs are in place at local conservation organizations (R. Saunders pers. comm.), as well as privately-owned businesses (C. Chrock pers. comm.).

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Section I. Introduction/Overview