Incorporating stakeholder preferences, attitudes, and use patterns into marine protected area planning: a case study of recreational boating in the southern Gulf Islands, British Columbia




Gray, Darcy Lawrence

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Marine protected areas (MPAs) may be implemented as a means of managing human impacts on the marine environment; however, MPAs commonly have both biological and social goals, which are often addressed through the use of multiple use marine zoning. In British Columbia, 900 km2 of the waters surrounding the southern Gulf Islands are under consideration for a National Marine Conservation Area (NMCA). Should the NMCA be created, a marine zoning plan will be developed for the region. Research has shown that MPAs and associated zoning schemes are unlikely to be successful at meeting their conservation objectives if they are not accepted by, and responsive to the needs of, stakeholders. This study examines recreational boating in the southern Gulf Islands, within the context of the proposed NMCA. Specific areas of focus include: (1) activities, setting preferences, and sources of perceived conflict amongst boaters, (2) dimensions of support for and opposition to the concept of marine zoning amongst boaters, and (3) spatial patterns of recreational boating in the region. Methods included a focus group and a face-to face questionnaire, delivered to boaters in the southern Gulf Islands from June – September, 2007 (n=543, response rate=92%). Results show that there is variability in the environmental, social, and managerial setting preferences of recreational boaters, and that boat type has an influence across all three categories. Furthermore, several activities emerged as sources of perceived conflict for recreational boaters. Reasons provided as to the nature of these conflicts indicate that while some may be potentially addressed through marine zoning, others may be better mitigated through education and communication strategies. While a majority of boaters are supportive of the general concept of marine zoning, there are some issues and concerns that will need to be addressed as MPA implementation proceeds. Support for marine zoning was found to be strongly related to perceived benefits, particularly environmental benefits. Major dimensions of opposition included perceptions of over-regulation, fears of losing access for boating, and mistrust of government involvement in managing the marine environment. Spatial data was collected by asking respondents to indicate on a map the route of their current boating trip, resulting in a rich spatial dataset for recreational boating in the region. Mapping and display of this data indicates both hotspot destinations and heavily traveled corridors for recreational boating; furthermore, because spatial data can be linked to questionnaire variables, this dataset can provide the basis for a great deal of customized mapping and analysis related to spatial patterns of boating. Given that little information on recreational boating in the region existed prior to this study, results from all three areas of focus together make a significant contribution to understanding recreational boating in the southern Gulf Islands, and provides valuable information for MPA planners and managers. In addition, this study also contributes to MPA research, recreation and leisure research, and research examining methods of spatially characterizing boating activity.



marine protected areas, stakeholder, southern Gulf Islands, recreational boating, zoning, mapping