Graduation Date

Fall 2021

Document Type



Master of Science degree with a major in Natural Resources: option Environmental Science and Management

Committee Chair Name

Laurie Richmond

Committee Chair Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Second Committee Member Name

Erin Kelly

Second Committee Member Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Third Committee Member Name

Joice Chang

Third Committee Member Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Fourth Committee Member Name

Cheryl Chen

Fourth Committee Member Affiliation

Community Member or Outside Professional

Subject Categories

Environmental Science and Management


Marine protected areas (MPAs)—defined geographic areas where fishing and harvesting activity is limited or restricted—have emerged as a popular marine biodiversity and climate resilience strategy worldwide. MPA monitoring efforts often follow MPA designation to help inform the adaptive management of MPAs and MPA networks. In 2012, California completed the largest statewide system of MPAs to date, consisting of 124 MPAs covering 16% of state waters. Following MPA implementation, the state initiated a long-term monitoring program (2019-2022) to help inform the 10-year MPA management review. This two-chapter thesis presents findings from a state-funded project to conduct long-term socioeconomic monitoring for human uses of the MPA network. Chapter 1 describes the novel methodological framework we developed to assess commercial fishing community well-being in relation to long-term MPA management in California. To address the need for standardized, contextual data—and the unique context, scale, and budget constraints of this study—we conducted mixed-methods focus groups with commercial fishing “community-experts” in 18 major California ports/port groups. The focus groups followed a structured, deliberative format that yielded both quantitative and qualitative data. Participants were asked to rate and discuss 15 questions related to fishing community well-being and outcomes from MPAs. Due to pandemic conditions at the time of data collection, focus groups were held over Zoom. Chapter 1 goes on to demonstrate the capabilities of the approach, including the type of data collected and adjustments made in light of the coronavirus pandemic, and discusses participant feedback on the virtual process and lessons learned from the project team’s perspective. Chapter 2 offers an in-depth exploration of the major findings gleaned from the focus group approach discussed in Chapter 1. Results indicated that fishing communities across California were experiencing challenges in their environmental, economic, and social well-being. Results did vary at the port/port group level, suggesting that well-being conditions were uneven across fishing communities. A majority of participants expressed negative views about ecological and livelihood outcomes of MPAs and dissatisfaction with the management of the California MPA network. While MPAs were not reported as the cause of the well-being challenges revealed in the results, focus group data suggested MPAs had interacted with and—in many cases—exacerbated pre-existing well-being challenges, many of which had arisen from structural shortcomings in California fisheries. This study contributes to the growing yet small literature and methodologies on the linkage between community well-being and MPAs, and demonstrates the strengths and capabilities of using a well-being approach for long-term socioeconomic monitoring and adaptive management of MPAs and MPA networks like that in California.

Citation Style



Thesis/Project Location