Background image of commercial fisherman helps move crate of fish


Bringing fisheries data to the forefront

A new interactive data-visualization tool is helping decision-makers and the public better understand California’s fisheries.

Shortly after the passage of the Marine Life Protection Act in 1999, the state of California set about establishing a network of Marine Protected Areas.

Early on, Ecotrust was hired to interview California fishermen, gathering critical information about their preferred fishing areas and elevating fishermen’s voices in the process. We have been proud to play a role in this work, from those initial assessments, to establishing California’s 119 Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). Now, the state is tasked with monitoring MPAs, and fisheries data is being highlighted in new ways.

Fisheries landings data have a tremendous amount of information about how fisheries have changed over time within certain port communities — information that has been difficult for citizens, scientists, and policy-makers alike to make sense of in the past.

Using data collected and managed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), Ecotrust developed the California Fisheries Data Explorer — an interactive tool that allows stakeholders of all kinds to visualize data from commercial fisheries and commercial passenger fishing vessels across the state.

Funded by the California Ocean Protection Council, and developed in partnership with CDFW and the California Ocean Science Trust, the Explorer was developed through California’s Marine Protected Area Monitoring Program to ensure that decision-makers, stakeholders, and the public have ready access to data and information that support the health and management of California’s ocean.

screenshot of interactive data visualization tool showing fisheries data in California
The California Fisheries Data Explorer allows all types of stakeholders to dynamically visualize more than two decades of fisheries information.

The Explorer, hosted by the California Ocean Science Trust, lets users dynamically view data from the commercial fishing sector on the number of fishermen, pounds of fish landed, and revenue. Commercial passenger fishing data includes the number of anglers, vessels, trips, and fish caught from specific fisheries and ports.

Rather than present fisheries data in a static report, we developed the interactive viewer to allow stakeholders to easily access and dynamically explore the large amount of data compiled as part of the California MPA Baseline monitoring program.

No matter where on the coast Californians live, they can find information about fisheries right in their backyards, including:

  • More than two decades of economic data from specific ports, including the top grossing fisheries, number of active fishermen, gross revenue, and total pounds of fish landed.
  • Fisheries and port-specific data that can be cross-compared.
  • A statewide map illustrating annual port data that can be dynamically modified.
  • Visualizations that can be saved and exported for reference in presentations, websites, or other informational materials.
  • Access to a full suite of data that can be used to make visualizations and conduct new analyses.

While the data are available to the public in a newly accessible way, special attention was paid to maintaining the privacy of fishermen. Data presented in the Explorer are summarized and aggregated to ensure confidentiality so that data points with fewer than three fishermen/operators are not publicly displayed and no personal information is displayed.

Dive into the California Fisheries Data Explorer and learn more at