Interpretations of MPA winners and losers: a case study of the Cabo De Palos- Islas Hormigas Fisheries Reserve
There is a controversy in the literature on marine protected areas (MPAs) over the way their outcomes are portrayed in terms of winners and losers. On the one hand, many analysts have portrayed MPAs as win-win solutions, resulting in both increased biodiversity and improved livelihoods. On the other hand, some analysts have argued that win-win outcomes are mythical, and in practice, MPAs invariably result in trade-offs between ecological and economic objectives. This study seeks to test which of these two hypotheses fits the Cabo de Palos Islas Hormigas marine protected area (CPH-MPA) in southeast Spain. However, it does so not by analysing directly the tension between the two objectives of ecological and economic goals, but by analysing the tensions between four groups of stakeholders—fishers, divers, community residents, and administrators—which map on to the tension between the two goals. The study is based on 111 interviews of key informants conducted in 2013–2014 to discover the perceptions of stakeholders on the issue of who are the winners and who are the losers as a result of the MPA. The main findings of this study on the CPH-MPA are that winning and losing are very complex and ambiguous categories; that there is no objective way of determining who are winners or losers; that the situation of winners and losers is due to human intervention rather than a natural and inevitable process; that win-win outcomes are implausible because trade-offs between wins and losses are inevitable; and that political authorities have to decide who will be the winners and who will be the losers.