Participative multi-criteria decision analysis in marine management and conservation: Research progress and the challenge of integrating value judgments and uncertainty
Managers and practitioners have increasingly applied participative multi-criteria decision analysis (MCDA) in marine multi-objective management situations. Despite methodological advances and practical experiences, there is no systematic review that clarifies the current scope and challenges of participatory MCDA in fisheries management, aquaculture and marine conservation. Using the ISI Web of Science database, 95 peer-reviewed publications were found that report MCDA applications in marine management (fisheries or aquaculture) and marine conservation. Of these, 31 studies explicitly and systematically incorporate stakeholders’ engagement at one or more stages of the MCDA process. Results show how participative MCDA has been applied in a wide range of marine multi-objective problems. Interestingly, 76% of studies included participation and 24% consultation processes. Most MCDA studies in marine environments were developed in Europe and Asia. Results highlight that despite successful experiences in participative MCDA, participation has been generally fragmented. Participatory processes have focused mainly at particular stages, such as the establishment of objectives and criteria, and elicitation of weights of importance. Conversely, other important stages of MCDA, such as identifying alternatives, estimating consequences or prioritizing management alternatives, exhibited low levels of participation and/or consultation. In addition, results suggest that uncertainties around multiple values judgments are seldom treated in marine MCDA studies. Greater rigor in promoting an active participation in the complete decision process and fully considering the uncertainties around people's value judgments are important research gaps, which if addressed, could substantially improve participative MCDA applications aimed at achieving sustainable management and conservation.