The Santa Barbara focus group discussion on August 31, 2020 included four community members from a range of commercial fisheries. Participants provided their perspectives on MPA outcomes and the health and well-being of Santa Barbara’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 Santa Barbara discussion, see this focus group summary. For more information on focus group participant recruitment selection criteria, see this recruitment process overview.
Participants described an array of negative effects from local and regional MPAs (state and federal) including loss of access to resources (including important fishing grounds close to the port), compaction of fishing on MPA boundaries and increased safety concerns and business costs. They expressed concerns about lack of information available about management priorities, including concerns around MPA boundary expansion, lack of clarity on monitoring, and inconsistent enforcement of MPAs. Participants expressed disdain on the failure to consider the Northern Channel Island (NCI) MPAs as part of the coastal MPA network and not considering the science guidance for NCI MPAs.
“As far as our local facilities, I think we’ve got probably the best port, up and down [the California coast]. [In other ports,] there’s no place to get ice, you can’t sell your fish on your own. You have to go through somebody else that’s going to charge you 30 or 25 or 50 cents a pound to unload you. Santa Barbara, we have the best.”
“We just essentially re-upped our board for CFSB with seven guys that volunteered to be board members. That’s the way we try to structure it is that each of the seven represents a gear type. So we get the diversity of perspectives within our board’s function and in that way too we pick challenges that are designed to elevate the entire community and the entire port.”
“The one thing that I think is extremely negative is that when they originally set up the plan, they asked fishermen where the areas were they didn’t want the MPAs, and that’s right where they put them, in some really prime turf [. . .] they took some really, really productive turf. So that, I mean, they targeted areas that we told them we wanted to keep.”
“I wouldn’t recommend my son starting out in a fishery down here because of the cost of entering it. The cost of living is so much more [in Santa Barbara] for the new people that are getting into it. The idea of starting a family and buying a house in Santa Barbara is fairly restrictive.”
“I, personally, was pretty darn discouraged on the whole implications long-term with respect to where the state was going [during MPA implementation] and much they valued what we [commercial fishermen] were doing.”
Top image: Santa Barbara Harbor. Credit: Rachelle Fisher, Strategic Earth