Natural protected areas are often required to concurrently support conservation and tourism development. Estimating the ecosystem's carrying capacity and setting up visitor access limitations is a common approach in maximising resource use to avoid environmental degradation. Our research used a case study strategy and a political ecology approach to analyse the conflict surrounding a carrying capacity-based management plan implemented in a Mediterranean marine protected area under severe pressure from scuba diving. A mixed documental and discourse analysis method based on fieldwork, grey literature and 16 semi-structured interviews with representatives of seven groups of stakeholders was used. Results indicate that although the carrying capacity approach was instrumentally supported by all groups, conventional scientific ecological knowledge played only a specious role in decision-making. Factors related to path dependency, neoliberal governance frameworks, uneven distribution of power among stakeholders and regulatory weaknesses were found to be the most influential in facilitating increased visitor pressure in the reserve. We conclude that, in order to be effective and mitigate social conflict, natural resource management strategies based on the carrying capacity concept must be complemented with a precursory assessment of the biopolitical context to align the goals of planning with the possibilities of the socially constructed environment.
Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)
Multi-purpose marine protected areas (MPAs) are prevalent world-wide as institutional mechanisms deployed in the marine environment to manage multiple uses, conserve resources and protect ecosystems. Yet some people may experience disadvantage following the implementation of new MPAs. One understudied aspect of MPAs is the distribution of advantages and disadvantages and how best to address the “justice” concerns that they raise. This article identifies a framework of principles, methods and tools to address these concerns. It devises a “MPA justice model” and demonstrates its applicability to a Taiwanese case study. In 2014, Taiwan proclaimed its first multiple-purpose MPA, the South Penghu Marine National Park and the case study shows ways that the MPA’s socio-economic sustainability could have been better accomplished. The article focuses on future MPA establishment that incorporates distributional fairness and procedural legitimacy into MPA site designation and zoning design - but might also be adapted to use retrospectively in MPA review processes.
Many of the world's shark populations are in decline, indicating the need for improved conservation and management. Well managed and appropriately located marine parks and marine protected areas (MPAs) have potential to enhance shark conservation by restricting fisheries and protecting suitable habitat for threatened shark populations. Here, we used shark occurrence records collected by commercial fisheries to determine suitable habitat for pelagic sharks within the Australian continental Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), and to quantify the amount of suitable habitat contained within existing MPAs. We developed generalised linear models using proportional occurrences of pelagic sharks for three families: Alopiidae (thresher), Carcharhinidae (requiem), and Lamnidae (mackerel) sharks. We also considered aggregated species from the Lamnidae and Carcharhinidae families (‘combined sharks’ in the models). Using a set of environmental predictors known to affect shark occurrence, including chlorophyll-a concentration, salinity, sea surface temperature, and turbidity, as well as geomorphological, geophysical, and sedimentary parameters, we found that models including sea surface temperature and turbidity were ranked highest in their ability to predict shark distributions. We used these results to predict geographic regions where habitat was most suitable for pelagic sharks within the Australian EEZ, and our results revealed that suitable habitat was limited in no-take zones within MPAs. For all shark groupings, suitable habitats were found mostly at locations exposed to fishing pressure, potentially increasing the vulnerability of the pelagic shark species considered. Our predictive models provide a foundation for future spatial planning and shark management, suggesting that strong fisheries management in addition to MPAs is necessary for pelagic shark conservation.
The expansion of marine protected areas in pelagic areas has been crucial to achieve sufficient protection of the oceans. However, there is still some controversy about whether these protected areas actually cover the vital areas for some species. We investigate the summer distribution of the critically endangered Balearic Shearwater and its overlap with the Special Protection Area for seabirds (SPA), using the Gulf of Cadiz as a case study. This area holds the SPA named Marine Area of Gulf of Cádiz, covering 2314.2 km2. A dataset of nine years of vessel-based surveys between 2006 and 2017 was analysed, using Kernel Density Estimation to generate the core area polygons for each year. The area located off the Bay of Cádiz, southeast of the mouth of the Guadalquivir, has revealed as a very consistent key area for this species during summer. This area, covering 1082 Km2, regularly hosted populations that exceeded the threshold for area of international importance (IBA criteria) for the species. The current SPA covers less than 40% of this new key area. The limitation in the number of years of monitoring and seasonal differences in the dataset used to establish the boundaries of the current protected area may be at the base of these discrepancies. This study emphasizes the importance of synthesizing and collecting long-term information to define marine protected areas and to assess their efficiency over the time. Furthermore, our study highlights the urgent need to expand this marine protected area to protect effectively this critically threatened species.
Bigi Pan Multiple Use Management Area (MUMA, IUCN category VI) is a coastal protected area situated in the Northwest Suriname between the Atlantic Ocean and the Nickerie River. The area is characterized by wetlands with mangrove forests, contains high biodiversity, and is of socio-economic, ecological and ornithological importance. However, the MUMA is overexploited and subject to competition between various income generating activities, including uncontrolled fisheries and unregulated tourism combined. Insufficient capacity of government agencies for enforcement and policy implementation and lack of communication between relevant government agencies has further contributed to unsustainable practices that diverge from ‘wise use’ and conservation. This article analyses the case of Bigi Pan MUMA from the perspective of collaborative governance. It explores how local communities address the conflicts, user pressure, and implementation gaps that lead to unsustainable practices in Bigi Pan MUMA. In addition, it explores the potential of stakeholder engagement with the local community and key user groups to provide meaningful and regular opportunities to actively participate in decision-making structures and to deliberate on management actions. The conclusion finally presents arguments on how collaborative governance can become more effective by including local communities and by strengthening local decision-making and management.
The Evidence Based Decision Making (EBDM) paradigm encourages managers to base their decisions on the strongest available evidence, but it has been criticized for placing too much emphasis on the choice of study design method without considering the types of questions that are being addressed as well as other relevant factors such as how well a study is implemented. Here we review the objectives of Australia’s Marine Park network, and identify the types of questions and data analysis that would address these objectives. Critically, we consider how the design of a monitoring program influences our ability to adequately answer these questions, using the strength of evidence hierarchy from the EBDM paradigm to assess the adequacy of different design strategies and other sources of information. It is important for conservation managers to recognize that the types of questions monitoring programs are able to answer depends on how they are designed and how the collected data are analyzed. The socio-political process that dictates where protected areas are placed typically excludes the strongest types of evidence, Random Controlled Trials (RCTs), for certain questions. Evidence bases that are stronger than ones commonly employed to date, however, could be used to provide a causal inference, including for those questions where RCTs are excluded, but only if appropriate designs such as cohort or case-control studies are used, and supported where relevant by appropriate sample frames. Randomized, spatially balanced sampling, together with careful selection of control sites, and more extensive use of propensity scores and structured elicitation of expert judgment, are also practical ways to improve the evidence base for answering the questions that underlie marine park objectives and motivate long-term monitoring programs.
The Rosemary Bank Seamount in the NE Atlantic was designated a Marine Protected Area in 2014 by the Scottish Government. Visual and trawl surveys of the seamount have been undertaken since 2007. Here these data are compiled and analysed to provide an assessment of the communities of demersal fish and benthic invertebrates found there. The fish and benthic invertebrate communities changed markedly with depth. Cluster analysis revealed at least four distinct communities of fish: those on the summit, the mid slope, the lower slope and the deep moat at the base of the seamount. The invertebrate community changed at a depth of 1100 m, where mixed-species sponge aggregations dominated to depths of 1500 m. The seamount is an important site for vulnerable marine ecosystems, most notably the extensive and unusually diverse deep-sea sponge grounds on the lower slope. Other prioritised conservation species and habitats recorded included cold water corals, orange roughy, blue ling, leafscale gulper shark and the Portuguese dogfish. Due to sampling constraints some areas of the seamount still remain unknown. A precautionary approach to protecting the entire seamount would achieve multiple conservation objectives. The data presented here serve as a base-line to assess the impact of management intervention in the future.
A key conservation strategy to protect and manage marine biodiversity is the implementation of marine protected areas (MPAs). The level of protection from human activities offered to biodiversity by MPAs is not uniform but varies according to the type of MPA, as well as by jurisdiction. This diversity in the activities permitted within MPAs means that reporting total area of marine protection does not reflect the level of protection offered to biodiversity. As such, there is the potential for public confusion surrounding what is permitted or prevented within any one MPA. Therefore, it is critical to determine the degree to which the public understands the activities permitted within MPAs, and how this accords with the actual protection offered to biodiversity. To do this, an anonymous survey was conducted to assess the general knowledge about the protection offered by Australian MPAs and, specifically, the activities permitted or prohibited within MPA boundaries. The overwhelming majority of respondents (63%) believe that Australia's MPA system restricts fishing, when this is only true for 25% of the total area protected. While the activities permitted within MPAs vary, the broad pattern remains that respondents overestimate the degree to which MPAs within their state of origin prevent extractive uses. This study suggests that there is a significant gap in the public understanding of marine conservation issues in Australia, highlighting the need for an explicit conversation between policymakers, scientists and the public about whether current levels of marine protection align with public expectations.
This paper evaluates two stakeholder participatory workshops (local communities and tourism stakeholder) to support the development of a management plan for South Ari Atoll Marine Protected Area (SAMPA), Maldives. SAMPA is the largest MPA in the country declared by Maldives to preserve one of the largest whale shark aggregations in the world. However, to date it exists with no management plan to date. The objective of the workshops was to consult with stakeholders on a range of potential regulatory and governance mechanisms proposed for the MPA that can be included in a potential management plan. The paper finds that the two stakeholder workshops had, both functional and dysfunctional aspects that influenced the potential design of a management plan for SAMPA. Overall, the workshops represented a clear opportunity for collective learning and collaboration that fostered dialogue and deliberation. However, important and influential stakeholders were under-represented at the workshops. Furthermore, a reluctance of government to demonstrate how the outcomes of the workshop would be integrated in its decision-making left many participants feeling sceptical about the fairness, equity and effectiveness of the processes that would follow. With no management plan to date, this paper proposes that any future stakeholder process in SAMPA should be underpinned by well informed governance and regulatory options that have the support and commitment of the government which can ensure SAMPA's ecosystem services are sustained to benefit long-term human well-being.
Marine biodiversity is under extreme pressure from anthropogenic activity globally, leading to calls to protect at least 10% of the world’s oceans within marine protected areas (MPAs) and other effective area-based conservation measures. Fulfilling such commitments, however, requires a detailed understanding of the distribution of potentially detrimental human activities, and their predicted impacts. One such approach that is being increasingly used to strengthen our understanding of human impacts is cumulative impact mapping; as it can help identify economic sectors with the greatest potential impact on species and ecosystems in order to prioritize conservation management strategies, providing clear direction for intervention. In this paper, we present the first local cumulative utilization impact mapping exercise for the Bioko-Corisco-Continental area of Equatorial Guinea’s Exclusive Economic Zone – situated in the Gulf of Guinea, one of the most important and least studied marine regions in the Eastern Central Atlantic. This study examines the potential impact of ten direct anthropogenic activities on a suite of key marine megafauna species and reveals that the most suitable habitats for these species, located on the continental shelf, are subject to the highest threat scores. However, in some coastal areas, the persistence of highly suitable habitat subject to lower threat scores suggests that there are still several strategic areas that are less impacted by human activity that may be suitable sites for protected area expansion. Highlighting both the areas with potentially the highest impact, and those with lower impact levels, as well as particularly damaging activities can inform the direction of future conservation initiatives in the region.