Lack of evidence that governance structures provide real ecological benefits in marine protected areas
The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) has set targets for the total area of marine protected areas (MPAs), as well as targets to encourage a participatory approach to governance with equitable sharing of benefits of these areas to multiple stakeholders. These targets have contributed to a considerable volume of research in MPA governance, and in the ecological effectiveness of MPAs. However, examining the literature demonstrates there is very little joined up research to show that any particular governance approach results in improved ecological indices of fish stocks or biodiversity. Indeed, some of the well-cited examples of participatory governance implying improved ecological metrics are either incorrect (as data do not relate to MPAs under participatory governance systems), or do not provide any ecological data other than opinions of fishers to back up the claims. Evidence suggests that participatory governance approaches with equitable sharing of benefits can help the establishment and management of MPAs, and as such, there should be urgent further work assessing the ecological benefits that arise as a result of the establishment of MPAs with participatory and equitable governance approaches.