The importance of place: Unraveling the vulnerability of fisherman livelihoods to the impact of marine protected areas
Marine protected areas (MPAs) hold great promise as an effective conservation tool, but the potential negative socioeconomic impacts of MPAs remain poorly understood. Indeed, little work has been done to advance the frameworks and methods needed to assess, measure, and communicate the potential negative socioeconomic impact of MPAs and incorporate this information in MPA planning and management efforts. To address this gap, we test a vulnerability assessment termed the Livelihood Vulnerability Index (LVI) that is designed to measure the relative potential impact a proposed MPA network may have upon fisherman livelihoods. To test the LVI, specifically we ask, how does the vulnerability of fishermen to the impact of MPAs differ across place? We explore this question through two core areas of inquiry surrounding the study of vulnerability assessments: 1) Ranking and comparing vulnerability and 2) Explaining attributes of vulnerability. Through this study we demonstrate how the historical and current conditions fishermen experience in a given place shape vulnerability levels in various ways. Variability in the attributes of a particular place such as weather conditions, the size of fishing areas, availability of alternative fisheries, and changes in kelp cover contribute inherently as measures of vulnerability but they also shape fishermen perceptions of what are important measures of vulnerability. Secondly, counter to existing notions, the use of weights in vulnerability assessments may not significantly impact vulnerability scores and ranking. Together these findings emphasize the need to test vulnerability assessments against actual experienced impact or harm across geographies and groups of fishermen towards an informed refinement of vulnerability assessments. We emphasize that the particularities of place are critical to understand, to appropriately assess and thus to effectively mitigate vulnerability in order to promote the future well being of fisherman livelihoods.