MPA Watch Takes to the Skies

Coastline View

“Recreational, sport fisher, actively fishing.”

We’re flying in a Beechcraft BE-36 aircraft approximately 750 feet above the Pacific Ocean as our spotter in the front seat makes the call.

“Mark it…now”.

The person she’s relaying this information to is sitting directly behind her, operating a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) device that can log the types of vessels encountered and their activities, as well as their geographic coordinates. Photographs of the different vessels are also taken to help verify vessel types and activities prior to being uploaded to a database.

This aerial survey, and others like it, are being conducted by The Bay Foundation with support from Lighthawk. The aerial surveys compliment land-based surveys that are being carried out as part of a data collection program called MPA Watch. The MPA Watch program, which is being carried out statewide by 10 different organizations, including Wildcoast, monitors human use of the California coastline, especially in marine protected areas and surrounding locations. While MPA Watch data is most often collected through shore-based surveys conducted by trained volunteers, boat-based surveys and aerial surveys are also used to collect data on off-shore activities.

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