Capacity shortfalls hinder the performance of marine protected areas globally

Last modified: 
December 16, 2019 - 1:00pm
Type: Journal Article
Year of publication: 2017
Date published: 03/2017
Authors: David Gill, Michael Mascia, Gabby Ahmadia, Louise Glew, Sarah Lester, Megan Barnes, Ian Craigie, Emily Darling, Christopher Free, Jonas Geldmann, Susie Holst, Olaf Jensen, Alan White, Xavier Basurto, Lauren Coad, Ruth Gates, Greg Guannel, Peter Mumby, Hannah Thomas, Sarah Whitmee, Stephen Woodley, Helen Fox
Journal title: Nature
ISSN: 0028-0836

Marine protected areas (MPAs) are increasingly being used globally to conserve marine resources. However, whether many MPAs are being effectively and equitably managed, and how MPA management influences substantive outcomes remain unknown. We developed a global database of management and fish population data (433 and 218 MPAs, respectively) to assess: MPA management processes; the effects of MPAs on fish populations; and relationships between management processes and ecological effects. Here we report that many MPAs failed to meet thresholds for effective and equitable management processes, with widespread shortfalls in staff and financial resources. Although 71% of MPAs positively influenced fish populations, these conservation impacts were highly variable. Staff and budget capacity were the strongest predictors of conservation impact: MPAs with adequate staff capacity had ecological effects 2.9 times greater than MPAs with inadequate capacity. Thus, continued global expansion of MPAs without adequate investment in human and financial capacity is likely to lead to sub-optimal conservation outcomes.

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