Mariah Gill

Major and Classification

Environmental Studies

Faculty Mentor

James Haw, Ph.D.


Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences

McNair Project

“Shaping Marine Protected Areas: The Media and Stakeholder Arguments in Southern California”

Project Abstract

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, there are 53 fisheries worldwide fully or over-exploited, and 17 of the 53 are completely depleted. However, less than 1/100th of 1 percent of the marine environment is protected. In 1999, the California Marine Life Protection Act was passed to reevaluate existing Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and create a more biologically successful MPA network. Studies have shown that the biological success of MPAs depends on their social success. Numerous studies have shown that public opinion on environmental issues is influenced by media coverage; however, the exact manner in which the media affects MPAs is unknown. This retrospective study investigates whether argumentative strategies, stakeholders, and media coverage influenced the planning of the MPA at Point Dume in Southern California. Articles from three newspapers between January 2008 and June 2011 were collected, counted, and coded for argument type (normative vs. positive) and stakeholder bias. Maps from the stakeholder group meetings were coded for Point Dume protection type proposals over time. Independent T-tests were used to show that the newspapers reported significantly more normative arguments than positive. Multivariate linear regression was used to determine whether this un-balanced news reporting predicted changes in the Point Dume MPA. Results from this study determine the manner in which the media and stakeholders alter MPA planning, thereby identifying an area in which MPA policy makers can focus on when integrating public involvement into future MPA planning processes.