The Point Arena focus group discussion on February 1, 2021 included four community members from a range of commercial fisheries. Participants provided their perspectives on MPA outcomes and the health and well-being of the Point Arena 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 Point Arena discussion, see this focus group summary. For more information on focus group participant recruitment selection criteria, see this recruitment process overview.
Participants highlighted internal relationships among fishermen as a key strength in Point Arena and reported their job satisfaction as high, in part, because of it. They explained that with only 10 commercial fishermen operating out of a fairly remote port, they rely on one another both on and off the water. Participants also noted some degree of support from the surrounding community who often purchase fish directly from the fishing fleet. Participants describe some strengths in resource sustainability noting that some marine resources including rockfish and live finfish were in a healthy state.
Participants described significant challenges related to infrastructure within the port, noting that the current conditions are poor and many key elements are missing. One example of a missing element is no local hoist for overloading fish even though local fishermen have offered to help pay for it. Point Arena community members noted that weather can be both a challenge and limitation for fishing out of the port. High costs of permits along with the inconsistent seasons of key fisheries like dungeness crab have also made operating fishing businesses very difficult in recent years. Participants felt that relationships with external entities could be improved and that there is little consideration of Point Arena fishermen in management decisions. They viewed an opportunity for increased support from the local community in terms of helping to fund infrastructure investments. Participants also indicated an area for improvement in Point Arena markets for local catch, describing poor market conditions with little choice due to lack of buyers in the community and the rural location of the port far from urban centers. Participants also highlighted some concerns related to the marine environment, specifically noting that salmon and urchin populations could be improved and expressing worries about potential future changes in ocean conditions.
Overall, participants expressed more negative views of the MPA network and the effects it has had on the resource and their livelihoods and highlighted the importance of understanding how the MPAs have interacted with existing restrictions on their fisheries. They indicated that the MPA placement removed key salmon grounds for fishermen from the port and had required fishermen to travel further to fish. They described a decrease in participation in the local fishing industry due to MPA impacts and expressed a belief that the MPAs have led to a compaction of fishing effort in non-protected fishing areas. Overall, participants expressed dissatisfaction with MPA management due to perceptions that the implementation and management process was unfair towards fishermen, did not involve effective communication of information, and lacked clear management goals. Point Arena participants expressed a desire for a more adaptive approach to management that would potentially open some areas for salmon and urchin harvest, noting that harvesting urchin is important to prevent the formation of urchin barrens.
“There’s only ten of us down there [who fish out of Point Arena]. We’ve known each other most of our lives, I’ve known [name redacted] since he was born, known his dad for 30 years before that [. . .] We’re all one family.”
“No one could say that the sea urchins are in good shape right now. Sea urchins, at least in the Point Arena area, are so low that sea urchin divers are not even going after them.”
“The MPAs had a really big impact on the amount of users at the pier. I think a lot of the local fishermen, even sports fishermen, think twice now if they want to go fishing. They have to go a lot further. It costs a lot more money. There’s other restrictions that overlap the MPAs. You can’t really go to the deeper water and catch the fish there.”
“There’s a lot of maintenance that [the port] behind on and that creates reliability issues. There’s no financial support for the infrastructure. The availability of key infrastructure, well, we’ve never had an ice machine, for instance.”
“I think that global warming is probably having an effect here, but I don’t know what the long term effects are going to be. But it seems to be getting worse instead of better. So that makes me a little concerned about the future, because the warmer temperature does make it more difficult for the bait to come in. And if the bait doesn’t come in, well, then the salmon don’t come out, but the salmon are somewhere. So I think they’re still living. They’re still eating. And they just may not come in to where we can catch them.”
Top image: Point Arena and Point Arena Lighthouse, August 2019. Credit: Noah M. Friedlander