The Social Dimensions of MPAs

  • Human interactions with the ocean are important economically, socially, culturally, and spiritually. Marine policy makers, conservationists, resource managers, and scientists are increasingly recognizing the importance of considering these important social dimensions when designing marine protected areas.
  • Research has shown that social factors are the primary determinants of MPA success of failure. For example:
    • MPAs require significant technical and financial resources to manage. If these resources are not available in a particular area (such as in a developing country), an MPA is less likely to be effective
    • MPA effectiveness requires compliance to management rules. Compliance is more likely when the needs and perspectives of local and regional stakeholders have been considered while designing management plans for MPAs, and if MPAs have clear benefits to their own lives and livelihoods.

     

  • This means that there is a movement toward focusing not only on developing biological goals for MPAs, but also socioeconomic and governance goals for MPAs (from Pomeroy et al. 2006).
    • Biological goals: sustaining or protecting marine resources, protecting biological diversity, protecting individual species, protecting habitat, and restoring degraded areas.
    • Socioeconomic goals: maintaining food security, livelihoods, and non-monetary benefits to people (e.g. spiritual and emotional), ensuring that stakeholders benefit from MPAs equally, maximizing the compatibility between management structures and the local culture, and increasing environmental awareness.
    • Governance goals: maintaining effective management practices, ensuring continued participation of stakeholders in management, ensuring compliance to MPA rules, and reducing resource conflicts.

     

  •  It is important that the interests of both regional and local stakeholders be considered (Ban et al 2011).
    • Regional interests include those of industry, national governments, non-governmental organizations, or aid organizations
    • Local interests include those of local governments, community groups, local fishing cooperatives, and traditional and subsistence users.

     

  • Some strategies that have been shown to increase the success of MPAs include (Ban et al. 2011)
    • Synthesis of regional and local needs in MPA design
    • Incorporating and communicating clear benefits to people in the goals for marine protected areas. For example, the goal may be to develop sustainable fisheries within MPAs through controlled harvest so that people may still benefit financially from the resources within an MPA. This also ensures that the resource is protected for future generations.
    • Allowing use of MPAs to certain restricted activities, such as subsistence fishing and tourism.
    • Carefully considering the needs of traditional users of MPAs, who may rely on marine resources to live.

     

  • Often the interests of different stakeholder groups conflict, making MPA design, implementation, and management a challenge. It is important to remember that establishing MPAs is a complex process that requires consideration of many different factors.