Investigating Marine Wildlife Ecotourism In Southern California: A Case Study for La Jolla Cove

Janelle Layton, Hampton University, Marine and Environmental Science, Hampton, VA, United States and Jeffrey A Seminoff, NOAA NMFS, Southwest Fisheries Science Center, La Jolla, CA, United States
In southern California, marine-based ecotourism is becoming more popular each year. Thousands of individuals are visiting La Jolla Cove, in San Diego County to view a variety of species, including (non-dangerous) leopard sharks, seals, sea lions, rays, whales, sea birds, and green sea turtles. Interview-based surveys (n=144) were conducted on visitors to the Cove to better understand the stakeholder groups that visit La Jolla Cove and the drivers for why visitors choose the Cove over the many other tourist attractions in the San Diego region. In addition, pre and post surveys (n=21) were conducted for people participating in local ecotours to discover how much these groups are learning and retaining. From these surveys we learned about the demographics of these stakeholders as well as what they learned about local wildlife. We also gauged how their experiences at the Cove impacted their willingness to donate to wildlife conservation. For the first time we have a better understanding of the marine wildlife viewing stakeholders in La Jolla Cove and the level to which this ecotourism provides educational and conservation benefits for both the viewing public and marine wildlife. The results obtained will provide information to assist in the creation of outreach materials for the public, and to educate the largest possible target audience about environmental issues that affect their lives.