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MarineMap Consortium

FotoliaMarine Map – Marine Life Protection Act Initiative Overview

Under the leadership of the Marine Science Institute at UC Santa Barbara, and with help from Ecotrust, and The Nature Conservancy, MarineMap was introduced to facilitate the design and evaluation of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) as defined by California’s Marine Life Protection Act Initiative (MLPAI).  This collaboration brought together skills that included open-source software development, marine science data management, analysis and visualization, local knowledge data collection, social and economic analysis, as well as stakeholder engagement and conservation planning.

Implementation of the MLPAI required stakeholders to understand and use a complicated set of spatial and scientific requirements for MPA design that relied heavily on geographic information.  Tools for the delivery and visualization of geographic information changed radically during the seven years of the MLPA planning process, and the creation of a spatial decision support system that enabled public and stakeholder participation in designing MPAs was essential for its success.

Developed on a web-based open-source platform, MarineMap provided an intuitive user experience and offered a simple, flexible, and powerful means for users to share ideas and foster collaboration among various stakeholders.  MarineMap moved spatial analysis away from the domain of GIS experts to a broader group of stakeholders by simplifying complicated spatial concepts and science-based MPA design guidelines, quickly delivering critical information that allowed users to iterate through MPA scenarios rapidly.

Licensed by the University of California Regents, the open-source code may be downloaded here.

MarineMap Features:

The easy-to-use interface allowed users to:

  • Visualize social and ecological attributes of coastal areas
  • Draw and assemble networks of prospective MPAs
  • Specify types of regulations to be applied to each MPA, as well as goals and objectives fulfilled
  • Generate reports that assess MPAs according to scientific guidelines as well as social and economic impacts
  • Share MPA boundaries and networks with other users
  • Quickly and easily modify MPA concepts as the process evolved

MarineMap’s Impact

By placing stakeholders at the center of the planning process, and providing tools that encouraged their participation, MarineMap brought both transparency and greater investment by stakeholders and the general public to the MLPAI process.  MarineMap was used by stakeholders in the Southern (Point Conception to the California/Mexico border) and Northern (California/Oregon border to Alder Creek near Point Arena in Mendocino County) MLPAI study regions to develop and submit MPA network proposals.  Stakeholders and the general public generated over 20,000 prospective MPA designs, which ultimately lead to the establishment of 49 MPAs and 3 special closures in the South Coast study region. These designations cover approximately 354 square miles of state waters and represent approximately 15 percent of the region.  In addition, there are approximately 15–20 new MPAs in the North Coast study region currently under review by the California Department of Fish and Game Commission.

For More information, contact Will McClintock at UCSB Santa Barbara.

“MarineMap gets people honestly talking about where they can find common ground.”

— Ken Wiseman, Executive Director, Marine Life Protection Act Initiative