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Streamlining Data Collection on California’s Coastal Waters

With a network of 124 marine protected areas (MPAs) and over two million anglers spread across more than 5,000 square miles, patrolling and protecting California’s coastal waters is no small feat. From commercial fishery rules, to marine protected area management, to navigational safety concerns, enforcing regulations across the marine environment is an important yet challenging task. To aid in this formidable and important challenge, California’s marine enforcement agencies are increasingly relying on an innovative geospatial data collection tool, known as eFINS (short for the electronic Fisheries Information Network System), to streamline data gathering and sharing.

eFINS is an application developed in 2017 by the California Marine Sanctuary Foundation (CMSF), NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary (CINMS), and Resources Legacy Fund (RLF). This data-focused tool allows marine patrol officers from agencies such as California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the National Park Service, and the US Coast Guard to electronically record, store, and reference geospatial data to better track and understand activities taking place in the marine environment.

When out on patrol, officers can easily and efficiently use eFINS to document vessel information such as location, violations (if applicable), catch data, and more. When approaching a vessel, marine patrol officers can also quickly reference all past records in eFINS, allowing for rapid detection of repeat offenders. As one CDFW marine warden put it, “it’s like having two years of boarding cards, searchable and accessible, in my pocket.” When in the field, eFINS’ map feature makes it easy for officers to see where they are relative to MPA boundaries.

With users regularly inputting records across the state, the data collected in eFINS helps paint a picture of vessel activities in California’s waters. And with over 5,000 enforcement records collected since 2017, eFINS also forms a real-time inter-agency database. The benefits and applications of this database are endless, including identifying hotspots of activity or violations on the water to improve patrol planning, determining which regulations are most frequently violated, pinpointing MPAs that are most prone to violations, and streamlining both intra-and inter-agency reporting. eFINS data is especially helpful in better understanding human use within the

124 MPAs that we are lucky to have dotting

California’s coastal waters.

California’s marine spaces are home to some of the most diverse and abundant marine natural resources in the world. Protecting the wildlife that calls California home and safeguarding the marine environment for future generations is a worthy task. CMSF is proud to develop and maintain data-centered tools, like eFINS, that can support marine patrol officers’ efforts to promote compliance and strengthen enforcement.

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