Bodega Bay

Cohort Participants

Discussion Date

How We Assembled

The Bodega Bay Area Ports focus group discussion on July 9, 2020 included six community members from a range of commercial fisheries. Participants provided their perspectives on MPA outcomes and the health and well-being of Bodega Bay Area’s commercial fishing community, including environmental conditions, markets, infrastructure, and social relationships. A synthesis of these perspectives is captured below.

For the full summary of the Bodega Bay Area Ports discussion, see this focus group summary. For more information on focus group participant recruitment selection criteria, see this recruitment process overview.



Bodega Bay participants identified internal and external social relationships as a real strength of the port. They described strong bonds amongst fishermen from the port, a strong and active fishing organization (Bodega Bay Fishermen’s Marketing Association), and active involvement by the fishing community in management and decision-making related to priority fisheries. They noted that local marine resources appeared to be in good health with consistent Dungeness crab biomass and generally healthy salmon populations, although they expressed concerns about inconsistent access over time to salmon due to management and environmental factors such as habitat loss and water quality. Participants noted some bright spots in local markets, describing the recent expansion of dockside and direct to consumer marketing opportunities as a key strength.


Participants expressed concerns related to declining infrastructure including the loss of a haul-out facility, lack of ice, and a limited fuel schedule all of which negatively affected their ability to operate efficiently. They noted challenges in local markets due to the reduction in local buyers and buyers becoming more targeted in the species they purchase and the vessels they work with. They described recent loss of the local urchin industry as a key blow to the port and expressed concerns related to the uncertainty of fishing seasons and management for Dungeness crab and salmon. Participants described challenges related to attracting new participants into the industry due to the high cost and low availability of limited entry permits as well as high operational costs. Many noted that it was difficult to make a living on fishing alone. 


MPA Takeaways

Participants discussed negative MPA livelihood impacts for Bodega Bay fishermen, particularly for the sea urchin and Dungeness crab fisheries. They described how the loss of key sea urchin fishing grounds decreased local participation in the urchin fishery, while Dungeness crab fishermen suffered financial losses due to the placement of MPAs in areas that were once productive fishing grounds. Participants expressed a lack of clarity regarding adaptive management of the MPAs. They did not understand why fishing for pelagic species like salmon is not permitted in certain MPAs, nor why MPA designations are not updated seasonally. Participants that were also a part of the MPA implementation process recalled the trauma they experienced from the “pennies exercise,” in which fishermen were asked to identify economically important fishing grounds which were then designated as MPAs. With regard to MPA monitoring, participants had limited knowledge of monitoring activities since MPA implementation, though they desired information about MPA efficacy and wanted commercial fishermen to be involved in monitoring efforts. Participants were generally dissatisfied with the enforcement of MPAs due to inconsistent interpretation and/or communication of the regulations, making enforcement uneven and compliance challenging. 


Direct from focus group participants

“In Bodega Bay, there has been a reduction in buyers or changes in the buyers and they specifically only want certain [products]. By bringing in the seafood producers [co-op], I think there’s kind of a resurgence of, hey, maybe there’s some competition, we better start paying our boats better.”

“I chose strong because our port is represented on the [Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear] working group, the Dungeness [Crab] Task Force, PCFFA, all the different organizations, we have a presence, a strong presence. It’s by very few people who do most of the representing and we owe them a lot. But we are represented in all those areas where other ports may struggle to have a representative.”

“We don’t have a haul-out facility; we haven’t had one in quite a few years and I think when we lost the haul-out facility was kind of like the tombstone for Bodega Bay, everything else seemed to go away slowly but surely after that.” 

“I would say those that left fishing left because [. . .] of the generalized difficulty and challenges in making a living. So the MPAs certainly added to that [. . .]. When you ask a question, ‘was it because of that?,’ maybe [MPAs] were the straw that broke the camel’s back, but they weren’t the weight that broke the camel’s back. They were just the final straw.”

Top image: Boats tied up in Spud Point Marina, Bodega Bay. Credit: Rachelle Fisher, Strategic Earth