Socioeconomic Research & Monitoring Program for Channel Islands

photo of anacapa island and yellow flowers

“Management of the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary involves monitoring biological resources and the effects on the socioeconomic environment. The goals of monitoring are to establish baseline data, record changes in resources and evaluate effectiveness of the Sanctuary. Examples of biological studies include species abundance and habitat characteristics at sites both within and outside the Sanctuary boundaries while socioeconomic studies include fishery landings, boat traffic and recreational activities such as kayaking and SCUBA diving. Information gathered from these monitoring activities helps determine the effects the Sanctuary is having on both biological and cultural communities and provides staff with information to improve Sanctuary management” (Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary web site).


Socioeconomic research and monitoring for the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary (CINMS) was initiated through the management plan revision process which began in 1999.  One of the main issues identified was the possible creation of a network of marine reserves (no-take areas).  To address this issue would require socioeconomic profiles of all users, including quantifying the extent and spatial distribution of use to support assessment of alternative boundaries for marine reserves or other special marine zones.

In 1999, Bob Leeworthy, Leader of the Coastal and Ocean Resource Economics Program (CORE) and now Chief Economist of the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, and Peter Wiley from CORE developed an overview paper, which in the Office of National Marine Sanctuary Socioeconomics, we describe as “Characterization”.  Characterization attempts to compile information on all user groups and their uses, describe the surrounding communities and establish connections of uses of Sanctuary resources with the local communities.  The conclusion of the overview paper was that information to support socioeconomic impact analysis of marine reserves or any other management strategy was inadequate.

An updated overview or characterization can be found in the reports found under “Socioeconomic Impacts of Marine Reserves”.  There you will find details on the commercial fisheries, recreational fisheries, and nonconsumptive recreation by those who access the CINMS via for hire operations.  The major gaps included nonconsumptive recreation by those who access the CINMS via private household boats, passive uses (i.e. those who have economic value for the CINMS but who don’t directly use it), and the uses related to science and education.

Follow-up efforts to the initial assessment of the socioeconomic impact of marine reserves included efforts to design a research & monitoring program for the CINMS and implementation of the program to fill important gaps.

Socioeconomic Monitoring Recommendations

On March 14-16, 2003, over 100 stakeholders and experts met to design a monitoring program for the marine protected areas proposed within the CINMS.  Forty-six stakeholders and experts participated in the two and one-half day workshop and made recommendations for the socioeconomic component of monitoring.

Socioeconomic Monitoring Plan (Social Science Plan)

In 2005, a series of meetings were held with the different stakeholder groups to prioritize the recommendations developed in the 2003 workshop towards the development of a 3-5 year plan.  The plan was vetted by all stakeholders and adopted in 2006.

Check out the fact sheet to read a summary of what is currently known on the socioeconomics of Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary.

Download the fact sheet

Private Boating Study

One of the major gaps in socioeconomic information in the marine reserve evaluation process was that for those who access the CINMS via private household boats for nonconsumptive recreation.  In 2005, a study was initiated to fill this gap through funding received from the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation.  The study was amended to address several consumptive activities as well since many users do both consumptive and nonconsumptive recreation during trips to the Channels Islands in private boats.

Study Area Profile 1990 to 2010


In the "Socioeconomic Impacts of Marine Reserves", a "Study Area Profile" was completed for the sanctuary. A "Study Area Profile" describes the on-land areas where most of the socioeconomic impacts of sanctuary resource use take place. Demographic and economic profiles are included by county. The "Study Area Profile" is updated with 2010 data from the U.S. Department of Commerce Census Bureau and Bureau of Economic Analysis and the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Economic Impact of Commercial Fishing

Commercial fishing is an important industry in the CINMS. In 2013, a report was completed to assess the economic impacts of commercial fishing on local county economies from catch in the CINMS. The report includes information on economic impacts, profiles of various fisheries, extent of gear type use, trends in vessels, port dependency and other socioeconomic indicators.

Economic Impact of Recreational Fishing

Recreational fishing in CINMS creates value to the local economy. In 2015, a report was completed to assess the economic impacts of recreational fishing on local county economies of CINMS from 2010 through 2012. The report includes information on economic impacts, expenditures of fishermen and person-days fishing trends by mode of access.