Mapping fishers’ perceptions of marine conservation in Brazil: An exploratory approach
This paper proposes an ‘exploratory mapping’ approach that can be employed in the early stages of a marine protected area planning process. While stakeholders' involvement in conservation has increased, it often only starts after the decision has been made about where the protected areas will be located. The lack of proper engagement with resource users raises questions about transparency and legitimacy of marine conservation initiatives, hampering their successful implementation. The proposed mapping approach offers a simple way to incorporate in the planning process what small-scale fishers consider to be important to conserve, what they value in their fishing livelihoods, and their perception about the likely impact that multiple uses of the area may cause. Conducted in a small group setting, the exploratory mapping approach is casual and conversational, using paper maps and markers to capture information and stories as they are told. The approach was tested with 14 small-scale fishers living near the Marine National Park of Currais Islands, Southern Brazil. The mapping results, based on the GIS analysis, show a high level of agreement among the study participants with respect to the ecological importance of the area under protection. The participants emphasized that, in addition to its ecological significance, the area is also important in economic and socio-cultural terms, aspects that should be considered in the planning. The study highlights how the exploratory mapping approach can provide decision makers with useful information about small-scale fishers' values and knowledge, which can help identify potential conflicts and enhance support for marine protected areas.