The California’s Life Protection Act is a recent high-profile initiative that led to the implementation of a network of 124 marine protected areas (MPAs) encompassing 16% of state waters. While the initiative has been described as a success in terms of implementation, there has been relatively little empirical research about social perceptions of the MPA network in order to examine whether stakeholders view the effort as successful.

This research is based on surveys with 178 commercial and charter fishermen, which included perceptions of both the process of implementation and potential outcomes from the network.

The results show that among fishermen, both satisfaction with the overall process and trust levels in management entities were low.

The authors state that MPA managers and proponents can gain two important insights from this work:

  • Including participation may not be enough to make stakeholders satisfied with the process. Stakeholders may need to feel that requests for their input are genuine and that their perspectives will be heard. Additionally, the authors highlight that it is important that stakeholder input be incorporated from the beginning of the process and not just near the end after many key decisions have been made.
  • The study highlights the importance of trust to building successful and lasting marine conservation initiatives. In the study, level of trust in the entity that implemented the MPA network correlated strongly with fishermen’s satisfaction with the planning process and the MPA locations. It is suggested that loss of thrust from one planning process can spill over to other processes, creating challenges for future conservation initiatives.

Ordoñez-Gauger L, Richmond L, Hackett S, Chen C (2018) It’s a trust thing: Assessing fishermen’s perceptions of the California North Coast marine protected area network. Ocean & Coastal Management 158:144-153