By Jessica

Susan Kenyon from the University of Edinburgh presented her hot topic on marine protected areas (MPAs). The IUCN defines MPAs as ‘a clearly defined geographical space, recognized, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values’ (Day et al., 2012). The growth of marine protected areas in the past 10 years has been substantial with a fivefold increase globally (Palmquist, 2013). MPAs are predicted to continuously grow throughout the 21st century (see Figure 1). Susan argues win-win solutions for marine environments when socio-economic and ecological objectives are both met for small-scale reserves. To match objectives local communities need to be involved in the planning, establishment and management of marine parks. Avoiding local peoples displacement is crucial when implementing polices on local waters. Socio-economic objectives ensure MPAs do not affect welfare of locals and protection historical, cultural, tourism and education use value – among others (Kelleher and Kenchington, 1991). Ecological objectives are ‘safe-guarding’ the biodiversity present in the waters of the reserves.



Figure 1. Recent increase of MPAs lead to a predicted increase in the global ocean area protected by the end of the 21st century (Wood et al., 2008).


MPAs have shown to be both effective and ineffective at different scales. The criticism applies more widely to large-scale reserves and networks of reserves due to a lack of management. This risks becoming a ‘paper-park’ which occurs when the objectives are not fulfilled (Fitzsimmons and Wescott, 2016). Small-scale reserves are more likely to be successful where locals are involved and management is consistent. Susan uses examples of successes (ie. Philippines and Panamda; Demesa et al., 2013; Stienitz et al., 2005; Samonte et al., 2010) and failures (ie. Indo-Pacific and Africa; Sunde & Isaacs, 2008; Cinner et al., 2014; Weigel et al., 2014) to explain importance of local involvement.


Two methods Susan proposes for small-scale MPAs to achieve a ‘win-win’ solution is via Locally Managed Marine Reserves (LMMR) and co-managed MPAs. There are different types of marine parks and at local scales these can be run solely by governments (normally in developed countries that can ‘afford’ them) or co-governed MPAs (who often provide a monetary sum that helps implement MPAs). LMMRs are a ‘bottom-up’ method where communities lead initiatives that support marine conservation whilst achieving benefits for local people. Samonte et al., (2010) state LMMR’s provide an increased income to fishers, diverse livelihoods and locally increased environmental awareness in the area. Co-managed MPAs, as a second solution, may be required where governments are unable to fund the establishment of the reserve. Local communities, local authorities and NGOs work together to plan, establish and manage these reserves. Regardless of the source of funding MPAs only prove effective when local involvement and continuous management occurs to ensure socio-economic and ecological objectives are met.


Therefore small-scale MPAs can turn into a lose-lose situation when local involvement and effective management are not present risking ‘paper-park’ status. However, MPAs can provide a win-win situation to marine conservation at small scales where objectives are met with community involvement.



MPA’s benefits and drawbacks:

MPA design:

Local involvement for more effective reserves:


Cinner, J. et al., 2014. Winners and Losers in Marine Conservation: Fishers’ Displacement and Livelihood Benefits from Marine Reserves. Society and Natural Resources. 27(9), 994-1005.

Day, J. et al., 2012. Guidelines for applying the IUCN Protected Area Management Categories to Marine Protected Areas. Gland: IUCN.

Demesa, C.B. et al., 2013. Challenges and oppourtunities in adopting ecosystem-based adaption in restoring fisheries and coastal resources. Ecosystem Alliance. Partido, Camarines Sur, Phiippines.

Fitzsimmons, J., & Wescott, C., 2016. Big, Bold and Blue: Lessons from Australia’s Marine Protected Areas. Clayton: CSIRO Publishing.

Kelleher, G., & Kenchington, R., 1991. Guidelines for establishing marine protected areas. Gland: IUCN.

Palmquist, D., 2013. New Study: Marine Protection Goals Are on Target, But Still Not Enough. [Online]. [14 Nov 2016]. Available from:

Samonte, G. et al., 2010. People and Oceans. Arlington: Science and Knowledge Division, Conservation International.

Stienitz, C. et al., 2005. A Delicate Balance: Conservation and Development Scenarios for Panama’s Coiba National Park. Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development. 47(5), 24-39.

Sunde, J., & Issacs, M., 2008. Marine conservation and coastal communities: who carries the costs? – A study of marine protected areas and their impact on traditional small-scale fishing communities in South Africa. Chennai: International Collective in Support of Fishworkers.

Weigel, J. et al., 2014. Marine protected areas and fisheries: bridging the divide. Aquatic conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems. 24(S2), 199-215.

Wood, L.J. et al., 2008. Assessing progress towards global marine protection shortfalls in information and action. Oryx. 42(3), 340-351.





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