Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis


School of Environment


Earth and Environmental Resources Management

First Advisor

Brian Helmuth


Long-term sustainability of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the Carolinas region of the United States requires identifying and responding to the needs of various user-groups. Research from other areas of the world suggests that community-based involvement is necessary in order for MPAs to meet their desired goals, and that MPAs are less successful when they do not involve input and engagement from local communities. In North and South Carolina, the coastal community includes commercial and recreational fishers as well as recreational users (e.g. divers), permanent residents and tourists. This study investigates the impacts and roles of MPAs as perceived by some of the user-groups they affect. I explore numerous studies outside the Carolinas to determine whether and to what effect they included community-based involvement. The information gathered from the literature review informed my own research pertaining to the Carolinas. I measure the perceptions, level of involvement, and needs of various user-groups in the Carolinas using a survey of commercial and recreational fishers, divers, and research scientists. The structure of the survey investigates the perceived knowledge and communication gaps between the research science community and other end-users of coastal resources who do not necessarily actively integrate science into their day-to-day activities. Data collected from the survey illustrated inconsistent findings between user-groups and the level of involvement of fishers and application of science in the decision-making process for MPAs. Recommendations are made in order to foster the overall effectiveness of MPAs through the inclusion of diverse user-groups. It identifies the barriers that exist in the Carolinas and suggests ways to mitigate them in order to balance the different goals for the MPAs.