Insights on Industry Engagement from Marine Recreational Use Studies in the Northeast U.S.
For the past decade, state and regional ocean planning authorities across the United States have been designing and conducting integrated and comprehensive marine planning processes in accordance with national, regional, and state mandates or guidance. Understanding and characterizing a variety of human uses of the ocean through combined data collection and stakeholder engagement initiatives is a core component of these processes.
Marine recreation has been a primary focus for these efforts, largely because there is a general lack of data characterizing this sector, despite its significant social and economic importance. Planning and management authorities as well as marine industry stakeholders have recognized this data gap. To fill this gap, planning authorities have been working closely with marine recreational industry leaders and experts on a number of studies which have resulted in datasets that are relevant to planning and management agencies and are also considered trustworthy by the industries. While these studies have employed a variety of approaches, techniques, and tools to characterize a diverse set of marine industries, a number of common themes and observations have emerged. This paper highlights these overarching best practices and insights distilled from SeaPlan’s experience with collaborative marine human use characterization studies in the Northeastern U.S.
These common methodological best practices and strategies are framed within a collaborative data collection and engagement model developed and adapted through designing and conducting successive marine recreational use studies between 2009-2016. Employing this collaborative model was instrumental in generating trusted data credible to all parties and creating an avenue for direct industry participation in the ocean planning process. We also offer two key strategies which can be used within the model’s framework. The first frames data as a shared asset, where information is intentionally developed to meet planning, management, and industry goals simultaneously. The second strategy encourages engagement approaches which are tailored toward unique industry characteristics, such as geographical distribution, seasonality, and existing industry organization.
This paper presents four case studies which demonstrate how the collaborative model’s best practices and associated strategies have been put into practice in the Northeastern U.S. over the past seven years. These studies include the 2010 Massachusetts Recreational Boater Survey, the 2012 Northeast Recreational Boater Survey, the 2015 Northeast Coastal and Marine Recreational Use Characterization Survey, and the 2013-2016 Pilot Charter and Party Vessel Fishing Mapping Project. Reflecting on the outcomes of these studies, we present a summary of lessons learned from this body of work. The intent in sharing this experience is, specifically, to inform others’ efforts as existing marine plans are implemented and as other regions and states embark on similar marine industry characterizations, and, more broadly, to contribute to the growing body of work in marine social sciences.