Citation Information: Environ Manage. 2011 Sep;48(3):499-513. Epub 2011 Jun 28
Authors: Bell CM, Needham MD, Szuster BW.
Abstract: Over the past few decades, recreation and tourism use has increased at many marine protected areas, generating concerns about impacts of this increasing use on experiences and conditions at these areas (e.g., crowding, conflict). This article uses data from Molokini Shoal Marine Life Conservation District in Hawai'i to examine: (a) reported encounters, crowding, normative tolerances for various use levels, and support of use related management strategies at this site; and (b) whether users who encounter higher use levels than their norms feel more crowded and are more supportive of restrictive management strategies. Data were obtained from onsite pre-trip and post-trip questionnaires of 712 passengers on commercial snorkel and dive tours visiting this site. Norms were measured with acceptance of 12 photographs depicting levels of boat use. On average, users would accept seeing no more than approximately 16 boats at one time at Molokini and this number was observed on over 20% of trips to the site. Although the majority of users expected to escape crowds at Molokini, 67% felt crowded and up to 79% supported actions that would directly restrict use at this site (e.g., limit number of boats). Users who encountered more boats than their normative tolerance felt more crowded and were more supportive of these management strategies. Findings suggest that this marine protected area is operating over its capacity and management is needed to improve experiences and conditions.