SEAT: Measuring socio-economic benefits of marine protected areas
Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are used as tools to increase marine biodiversity and their concomitant ecosystem services that benefit human wellbeing. It is important to assess whether they are in fact delivering socio-economic benefits to the surrounding communities beyond increasing fish biomass. The Socio-Economic Assessment Tool (SEAT) was developed to measure these benefits. While there are existing tools, most of them are difficult to accomplish and require extensive data gathering, thus are not utilized enough by MPA managers in the country. SEAT is designed to complement the MPA Effectiveness Assessment Tool (MEAT), the primary framework being used to assess MPA governance effectiveness in the Philippines. The tool builds on the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Framework of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, with a focus on whether MPAs increase financial, human and social capital of MPA management bodies and the surrounding communities. SEAT was pilot-tested in several MPAs across the country, and the results were used to develop incentive schemes, i.e. recognition awards, as a sustainability mechanism for MPA management. On an individual level, the results can provide guidelines on how MPAs can better be designed, managed or even expanded to increase socio-economic outcomes. At the national level, the SEAT results can further enrich the existing MPA database being maintained by the MPA Support Network of the Philippines, which will allow for a more comprehensive assessment on the effectiveness of MPAs in improving human wellbeing.