MPA Federal Advisory Committee and Sanctuary Council Chairs Meet for Joint Session on Tourism and Recreation

Recognizing that marine protected areas are destinations and play an important role in local and regional economies, the Marine Protected Areas Federal Advisory Committee met with National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council representatives and associated staff from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Department of the Interior and other ocean agencies, on Wednesday, December 5, 2012, to discuss how best to foster links between marine protected areas and the recreation, travel and tourism industries. This unprecedented joint meeting of over 70 participants represents a major step toward engaging two influential stakeholder groups with common goals but varied scales and perspectives. Meeting in small discussion groups, Federal Advisory Committee members and National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council representatives worked together to develop results-oriented plans that can be used to build engagement with the travel, tourism and recreation industries.

The results of the joint session are relevant to marine protected area managers, staff and their partners as we consider ways to connect people to ocean resources and experiences through sustainable recreation and tourism. Target Audiences and Potential Actions for Promoting Recreation and Tourism Eight breakout groups, each including both Federal Advisory Committee members and National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council representatives, met to identify practical actions that marine protected areas could pursue to build or enhance engagement with the travel, tourism and recreation industries.Each group collectively identified a key recreation and tourism constituency (e.g., recreational users, coastal communities, foreign visitors) and specific strategies for better engaging this target audience through marine protected areas programs. The eight strategies and a synopsis of emerging recommendations are summarized briefly below. While some ideas are targeted at specific national marine sanctuaries, many are applicable to a wider range of marine protected area programs. Implementation of a number of these actions at individual marine protected areas, or within broader networks of special places, requires the support and guidance of both staff and external parties, and may only be successful through collaborative approaches between managers, programs, advisors and partners.
Charter Fishing Operators
• Sanctuary advisory councils to bring together charter sportfishing
operators and representatives from tourism and visitors
bureaus to initiate discussions about marketing recreational
fishing and the value of the sanctuary.
• Develop a certification program (similar to BlueSTAR or
DolphinSMART) that promotes ethical angling.
• Federal Advisory Committee members analyze marine protected
areas for their respective accessibility to fishing.
• Encourage Federal Advisory Committee, especially fishing
and tourism representatives, to engage with this audience to
clarify how marine protected areas are predominantly open to
fishing and support local economies.
• Conduct a simply survey assessment of attitudes and perceptions
of recreational fishermen, charter boat operators and
customers to help inform outreach efforts and measure status
and trends.
• Engage charter fishing operators early in any process developing
or structuring (e.g., zoning) new and existing marine
protected areas.
Local and National-level Recreational Fishing
• Encourage marine protected area representatives to listen
to angler concerns and perspectives, and identify individuals
capable of facilitating discussions related to the benefits of
marine protected areas to fishermen and local economies.
• Ensure that marine protected area representatives have a
good understanding of the fishing conducted by recreational
fishermen, and regulations affecting them.
• Create a website, or other outreach materials, to highlight
value of recreational fishing at marine protected areas.
• Develop partnerships with recreational fishing celebrities (and
television programs) to incorporate and encourage fishing and
filming in marine protected areas.
• Engage recreational anglers to join in marine protected area
research and invasive species eradication efforts.
MPA Federal Advisory Committee and Sanctuary Council Chairs Meet for
Joint Session on Tourism and Recreation
Travel Industry
• Provide tools to the travel industry to support the development
of new or the revitalization of existing websites to
foster greater visibility of marine protected areas via search
engines. Tools could include a national-level template that is
modified and tested to meet local needs.
• Create travel magazine and other source profiles for relevant
marine protected areas that can be shared with travel associations
and agents for their online media and promotions.
Concessionaires and Vendors
• Develop locally adaptable guidelines for marine protected
area certification programs for that help vendors working
within the MPA to ensure that ocean uses are both ecologically
sustainable and economically profitable.
• Expand volunteer programs to include outreach to concessionaires
and vendors.
Visitor Bureaus
• Invite local visitors bureau to attend and present at SAC/FAC
meetings to determine how we can collaborate (this may
lead to the development of SAC working groups).
• Encourage the Federal Advisory Committee to develop a
guide for engaging with recreational and tourism entities.
• MPA managers join local chambers of commerce.
State and County Tourism Departments
• Encourage reciprocal [ex-officio] membership between
Convention and Visitor Bureaus and Tourism Boards and
advisory councils including, where appropriate, adding
a tourism-related seat or developing a working group for
advisory councils.
• Develop cross-marketing action plans specific to marine
protected areas and government entities responsible for
promoting recreation and tourism, and encourage the development
of a working group for completing/compiling these
action plans.
• Incorporate local, regional or state tourism representative on
advisory councils.
• Select a single, online platform to aggregate existing and
new information and social media tools, including access to
webcams, so that families may readily access information
on what there is to do within and near a particular marine
protected area.
• Incorporate “Plan your visit.” pages, activities and attractions
on this online platform/website and evaluate its success in
driving traffic.• Encourage advisory councils to develop lists for “plan your
visit” pages, and Federal Advisory Committee to create
guidelines for responsible travel and tourism in marine
protected areas.


Common Threads – Linking Marine Protected
Areas to Recreation and Tourism
As demonstrated by the summary of breakout group discussions
above, many groups had overlapping and complementary
ideas about how to forge stronger links to recreation and
tourism interests. The following ideas represent common
themes that emerged in the breakout group discussions, and
are relevant to diverse marine protected area programs. More
specific ideas that will be pursued by individual national marine
sanctuaries, their advisory councils, the Marine Protected Areas
Federal Advisory Committee and member sites of the National
System of MPAs, are provided in the meeting summaries for
those bodies.
• Provide recreation and tourism representation on marine
protected area Advisory Boards.
• Expand dialogue with the recreational fishing community,
which often has misperceptions about marine protected
• Engage with local and regional visitor bureaus to identify
ways marine protected areas can become part of existing
community tourism strategies or help develop new ones.
• Improve marine protected area websites and social media
to enhance information for visitors (e.g., “plan your visit”
• Develop certification programs for local businesses and
vendors that include guidelines for sustainable operations
and conservation messages.
• Promote visitors’ stewardship through pre-visit, visit and
post-visit information and activities.
• Assess and strengthen marine protected areas capacity to
support and manage visitation.
• Connect remote marine protected areas with the public
through visitor centers, webcams, social media and other
• Work with educators to engage and sustain youth and family
visits to marine protected areas.
For more information on the MPA FAC and the joint session of the
MPA FAC and the Sanctuary Advisory Council representatives,