Nearshore fish populations are in decline in the main Hawaiian Islands, and effective, sustainable management is needed. There has been increasing emphasis on the value of ecosystem-based management and the conservation of essential fish habitat, but policy is encumbered by a lack of supporting information. This study uses science and technology to support traditional knowledge in identifying juvenile fish habitats, providing a basis for effective resource management in a rural Hawaiian community. Building on existing local knowledge of nearshore resources, we quantitatively assessed juvenile fish-habitat associations. We conducted fine-scale in situ ecological surveys of juvenile reef fishes and their habitats, and produced detailed benthic habitat maps using GIS and interpretation of satellite imagery, from which we extracted multi-scale seascape variables. Canonical correspondence analysis was used to assess fish-habitat relationships at multiple scales. Depth, coral cover, structural complexity, scattered rock and coral habitat, and distance to shore emerged as primary factors associated with juvenile reef fish abundance. We identified the habitat associations of 2 important food resource species in the study area of Hā‘ena, Kaua‘i: the convict tang Acanthurus triostegus sandvicensis, an endemic subspecies, and the redlip parrotfish Scarus rubroviolaceus. Results from this study played an important role in the successful approval of the Hā‘ena community-based fishery management plan by the state governing agency. We argue that an ecosystem-based co-management approach, informed by conventional survey methods, remote sensing technology, and traditional knowledge, can help to ensure the sustainability of fisheries worldwide.
Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)
The efficacy of a Mediterranean Marine Protected Area (National Marine Park of Zakynthos – NMPZ, Ionian Sea, Greece) that implements a seasonal no-take zone as part of its management scheme was assessed using fish data collected in situ with underwater visual census. Sampling was conducted at two habitat types (Posidonia oceanica meadows and rocky reefs) that occur at sites of different protection level with respect to fisheries (high protection: seasonal no-take zone within the MPA; intermediate: zones within the MPA where small-scale fishing is allowed; none: areas outside the MPA, where all types of fishing are allowed, including trawlers, purse seiners, and recreational fishing). The data were used to examine the effects of protection level and habitat type on community parameters, trophic structure and functional diversity of fish populations that occupy the upper sublittoral zone. Overall, habitat type had a more pronounced effect than protection level on all investigated parameters. Biomass, density and number of fish species with low commercial value were higher in sites of intermediate protection, but no substantial fisheries-related ecological benefits were detected for targeted fish in the seasonal no-take zone. Conducted 8 years after the initial implementation of the seasonal no-take management scheme, our study suggests that existing fishing regulations in the NMPZ provide some measurable effects, but fall short of maintaining sufficient protection for the recovery of apex predators or other commercially important fish species. A revision of the existing zoning system to include permanent no-take zones, alongside the regulation of professional fishing and all extractive activities in the rest of the MPA, are strongly encouraged in order to enhance the effectiveness of fisheries management.
The effectiveness of Marine Protected Areas (MPA) to manage natural resources has been undermined in small insular lagoons due to massive mortalities triggered by climatic events that have hit some lagoons but not others. To minimize the future risk of ineffective management efforts, it has previously been argued that management should focus on a multi-island conservation target (regional scale), rather than on individual lagoons (local scale). However, it is unclear how a MPA network designed to meet objectives at a regional scale would impact on the management of resources at the local scale. In particular, it is necessary to understand if a regional plan might incidentally maintain conservation objectives at the local scale, without disproportionately affecting, or relying on particular islands. This study used the population of the giant clam (Tridacna maxima) in a fishery context to explore the distributions of conservation features and socio-economic costs for regional networks (computed within a set of islands), compared to individual islands. Designing a MPA network at regional scale led to unbalanced representation of conservation features among atolls and incidentally missed the targeted level of protection for conservation features at local scale. Moreover, the regional network generated inequitable costs for fishermen between islands, which is likely to lead to poor perceived equity. This study suggests that perceived equity and the representation of local conservation objectives will be major factors to consider, if the French Polynesian authorities follow the path of implementing MPAs in each atoll for a regional-scale resource management plan.
Improving and conserving marine ecosystems to maintain and promote their sustainability and to enhance or protect biodiversity and ecosystems’ services and functions is clearly a necessity. The importance of biodiversity in supporting ecosystem services and functioning has been established; thus, the worldwide creation of marine protected areas (MPAs), the goals of which vary with location, design, management, and compliance enforcement has been increasing. This paper explores the opinions regarding the creation of MPAs in Italy, people’s willingness to pay (WTP) for the conservation of marine biodiversity and ecosystem services, and maintenance of MPAs. The results indicate that most people would be willing to pay an entrance fee to MPAs, that is, depending of the valuation scenario proposed the mean WTP for a visit ranged from about €5 to €21 per person, and preferred environmental organizations as the most trustworthy organization type to manage the MPAs.
Designated large-scale marine protected areas (LSMPAs, 100,000 or more square kilometers) constitute over two-thirds of the approximately 6.6% of the ocean and approximately 14.5% of the exclusive economic zones within marine protected areas. Although LSMPAs have received support among scientists and conservation bodies for wilderness protection, regional ecological connectivity, and improving resilience to climate change, there are also concerns. We identified 10 common criticisms of LSMPAs along three themes: (1) placement, governance, and management; (2) political expediency; and (3) social–ecological value and cost. Through critical evaluation of scientific evidence, we discuss the value, achievements, challenges, and potential of LSMPAs in these arenas. We conclude that although some criticisms are valid and need addressing, none pertain exclusively to LSMPAs, and many involve challenges ubiquitous in management. We argue that LSMPAs are an important component of a diversified management portfolio that tempers potential losses, hedges against uncertainty, and enhances the probability of achieving sustainably managed oceans.
Ecosystems services (ES) provide food and recreation to humans, but are fast being degraded. Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) have been proposed as a way to protect some of these ES, but decisions regarding what gets protection and what gets consumed can be a source of conflicts. One such example is the Fernando de Noronha MPA (Brazil), where there is a conflict between shark-directed tourism and fishers who would like to access the no-take part of the MPA during part of the year. A contingent valuation method (Willingness to Pay) was used to ascertain if tourists would accept compensating fishers for not disturbing the sharks during a specific period of the year, by adding a symbolic increase in the taxes they already pay to either visit the island or to visit the no-take part of the MPA. Tourists were open to this alternative (67–71%), regardless of the fee being paid. However, there was a slight tendency to reject the fee when the tourists saw sharks during their stay, suggesting that a closer contact with these animals triggered a less sympathetic attitude towards fishers, probably because they start seeing fishers as wrongdoers, even if this is the worst choice for conservation. Although such a hypothetical payment was easily accepted by the majority of the tourists and could represent an affordable solution to conflicts, convincing those who reject such social compensation, especially if based on an irrational choice, would be an important step for sharks and for the MPA as a whole.
The California's Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) is a recent high-profile initiative that led to the implementation of a network of 124 marine protected areas (MPAs) encompassing 16% of state waters. The effort was conducted through six different regional processes that incorporated stakeholder and scientific involvement, ending with the North Coast region. While the initiative has been described as a success in terms of implementation, there has been relatively little empirical research about social perceptions of the MPA network in order to examine whether stakeholders view the effort as successful. Our research team conducted surveys with 178 commercial and charter fishermen and held five focus groups in each of the major ports of the region in order to assess fishermen's perceptions of the California North Coast MPA network – including perceptions of both the process of implementation and potential outcomes from the network. Among fishermen, satisfaction with the overall process was low; however, the level of satisfaction with the inclusion of local input and the final location of the MPAs was more evenly divided. Levels of trust in management entities, including those who implemented the MPA network, were low. Additionally, in focus group discussions, fishermen described several perceived shortcomings of the process, including an overall “top-down” approach, a failure to consider the local context, and the appearance of being dismissive of fishermen's perspectives. In terms of outcomes, fishermen overwhelmingly did not believe that the MPA network would improve ocean health or their income from fishing. Qualitatively, fishermen reported that while they were experiencing some minor adverse effects from the MPA network, overall they did not believe that socioeconomic impacts on the fishing industry from the MPA network would be substantial. Many expressed relief that the location of MPAs avoided many important fishing grounds. Trust emerged as an important variable. For example, the reported level of trust by fishermen in the entity that implemented the MPA network had a statistically significant correlation with their level of satisfaction with the overall process, including the final location of the MPA network. Findings complicate initial assessments of the MLPA implementation process as an overall success, and highlight the importance of trust to building successful and lasting marine conservation initiatives.
In South Africa, marine protected areas (MPAs) continue to be a favoured tool for biodiversity conservation and fisheries management. Efforts to expand the network of MPAs are contested largely due to historical injustices associated with MPA establishment and the ongoing social impacts linked with their current management and governance. This paper presents findings of recent research on the social dimensions of MPAs in five MPAs in South Africa. Drawing on information gathered from 70 oral histories, over 250 key informant interviews and 28 focus groups, the paper examines key social impacts respondents attribute to MPAs and their establishment and ongoing management. Significant negative impacts reported include the weakening of local governance rights and processes, in particular the lack of effective mechanisms for local community participation in decision-making. The loss of tenure rights and access to resources amongst already marginalised communities has contributed to food insecurity, less exchange of food and less household income. The MPAs investigated have impacted on culture, way of life and sense of place. Yet, despite government commitments to several international policy instruments relevant to MPAs and national laws legislating redress, social issues associated with MPAs have been largely overlooked. Findings from this research demonstrate that the failure to address historical impacts, as well as social hardships and inequities still being experienced, undermine the legitimacy of MPAs and frustrate the achievement of objectives and plans to increase the marine space under protection. Ways of working towards more effective, legitimate and sustainable MPAs in South Africa are suggested.
Marine protected areas (MPAs) are key tools to mitigate human impacts in coastal environments, promoting sustainable activities to conserve biodiversity. The designation of MPAs alone may not result in the lessening of some human threats, which is highly dependent on management goals and the related specific regulations that are adopted. Here, we develop and operationalize a local threat assessment framework. We develop indices to quantify the effectiveness of MPAs (or individual zones within MPAs in the case of multiple-use MPAs) in reducing anthropogenic extractive and non-extractive threats operating at local scale, focusing specifically on threats that can be managed through MPAs. We apply this framework in 15 Mediterranean MPAs to assess their threat reduction capacity. We show that fully protected areas effectively eliminate extractive activities, whereas the intensity of artisanal and recreational fishing within partially protected areas, paradoxically, is higher than that found outside MPAs, questioning their ability at reaching conservation targets. In addition, both fully and partially protected areas attract non-extractive activities that are potential threats. Overall, only three of the 15 MPAs had lower intensities for the entire set of eight threats considered, in respect to adjacent control unprotected areas. Understanding the intensity and occurrence of human threats operating at the local scale inside and around MPAs is important for assessing MPAs effectiveness in achieving the goals they have been designed for, informing management strategies, and prioritizing specific actions.
Marine protected areas (MPAs) are designed to reduce threats to biodiversity and ecosystem functioning from anthropogenic activities. Assessment of MPAs effectiveness requires synchronous sampling of protected and non-protected areas at multiple spatial and temporal scales. We used an autonomous underwater vehicle to map benthic communities in replicate ‘no-take’ and ‘general-use’ (fishing allowed) zones within three MPAs along 7o of latitude. We recorded 92 taxa and 38 morpho-groups across three large MPAs. We found that important habitat-forming biota (e.g. massive sponges) were more prevalent and abundant in no-take zones, while short ephemeral algae were more abundant in general-use zones, suggesting potential short-term effects of zoning (5–10 years). Yet, short-term effects of zoning were not detected at the community level (community structure or composition), while community structure varied significantly among MPAs. We conclude that by allowing rapid, simultaneous assessments at multiple spatial scales, autonomous underwater vehicles are useful to document changes in marine communities and identify adequate scales to manage them. This study advanced knowledge of marine benthic communities and their conservation in three ways. First, we quantified benthic biodiversity and abundance, generating the first baseline of these benthic communities against which the effectiveness of three large MPAs can be assessed. Second, we identified the taxonomic resolution necessary to assess both short and long-term effects of MPAs, concluding that coarse taxonomic resolution is sufficient given that analyses of community structure at different taxonomic levels were generally consistent. Yet, observed differences were taxa-specific and may have not been evident using our broader taxonomic classifications, a classification of mid to high taxonomic resolution may be necessary to determine zoning effects on key taxa. Third, we provide an example of statistical analyses and sampling design that once temporal sampling is incorporated will be useful to detect changes of marine benthic communities across multiple spatial and temporal scales.