Amid the chaotic nature of this summer with COVID-19, protests, wildfires, and an upcoming election, I have managed to seamlessly transition into my second year as a Natural Resource Policy Fellow with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW). Over the next year, I will continue to evaluate the impacts of marine reserves on coastal communities, communities of interest (e.g. commercial fishers), and ocean users (e.g. tourists).
Over the last year working on this mandate I have discovered that there are no perfect data sources to answer this question. Data often have errors associated with insufficient sampling in small communities, issues with changes in methodology, or are simply not available for the years or communities of interest. However, we can’t let these issues stop us. Therefore, we are gathering and analyzing relevant data from as many sources as possible while documenting the limitations of the data.
One source of data we have used are ODFW’s one- through seven-day fishing and shellfishing license sales. Implementing marine reserves closes off any extractive activities within that area. Therefore, we might expect that daily fishing and shellfishing license sales in communities located near marine reserves would decrease following reserve implementation. However, we also need to control for the historical trend in license sales on the coast. If license sales are decreasing in towns located near reserves, but also decreasing across the entire coast, then this reduction may be caused by something other than the reserves, such as a change in culture.
License sales are just one example of the data we are using to analyze marine reserve impacts. While we don’t always have perfect data to work with, using the best data available from multiple sources should be sufficient to understand if and how marine reserves have impacted communities.