Intertidal areas along rocky shorelines have become increasingly popular attractions for tourists, students, and the general public because they provide easy access to a wide variety of interesting marine life in tidepools and other habitats, including shoreline areas for fishing. The intertidal zone is the portion of shore that becomes covered and uncovered with water with the changing tides. However, the increased numbers of visitors to these areas can result in environmental impacts through trampling, rock turning, mishandling organisms, and collecting.

This study was initiated as a result of concerns by the California State Department of Fish and Game (CDF&G) and the County of San Mateo (County) about the potential impacts from current levels of visitor use, potential increases in future visitor use, and the effectiveness of present management and regulations in protecting the health and viability of the marine life in the James V. Fitzgerald State Marine Park. The need for the study was one of the recommendations in the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve Master Plan (Master Plan) (Brady/LSA 2002), and was the basis for obtaining a grant from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to support the project. Tenera Environmental (San Luis Obispo, CA) completed the study during the spring and summer of 2004. The study summarizes existing data on visitor use and marine life in the Park, provides new data on the distribution and abundance of marine life relative to visitor use, and offers suggestions for future monitoring and management of Park visitation to protect marine resources.