Influence of settings management and protection status on recreational uses and pressures in marine protected areas
Coastal populations and tourism are growing worldwide. Consequently outdoor recreational activity is increasing and diversifying. While Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are valuable for mitigating anthropogenic impacts, recreational uses are rarely monitored and studied, resulting in a lack of knowledge on users' practices, motivation and impacts. Based on boat counts and interview data collected in New Caledonia, we i) explored factors affecting user practices and motivations, ii) constructed fine-scale pressure indices covering activities and associated behaviors, and iii) assessed the relationships between user practices and site selection. User practices were found to depend on protection status, boat type and user characteristics. Pressure indices were higher within no-take MPAs, except for fishing. We found significant relationships between user practices and settings characteristics. In the context of increasing recreational uses, these results highlight options for managing such uses through settings management without jeopardizing the social acceptance of MPAs or the attainment of conservation goals.