Public discussion page for “Debating the effectiveness of marine protected areas” in ICES Journal of Marine Science (2017)

MPA News

The public comment area is down this page, following my brief thoughts here.

The fundamental purpose of MPA News is to help practitioners make their sites more effective. Sometimes this involves theoretical discussions, like What is effectiveness? Other times it involves more applied guidance, like how to build trust with stakeholders.

That purpose is why we've linked here to the special feature “Debating the effectiveness of marine protected areas” in ICES Journal of Marine Science. The feature provides some valuable blending of the theory and practice of MPA effectiveness. The result is focused (with concise points and counterpoints), useful (including some applied guidance from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park experience), and productive (finding some areas of common ground).

That being said, the feature acknowledges that its authors don't represent the full breadth of the global MPA community, and that a wider discussion of effectiveness would be worthwhile. In that light, I'd like to solicit MPA News readers' insights, drawing from your own diverse backgrounds and experience.

So please provide your feedback on the points and counterpoints in the journal’s coverage, and your thoughts on MPA effectiveness in theory and practice. Thank you! We may include selected contributions in a future issue of MPA News.

John Davis
Editor, MPA News


While I am glad to see the opening of the debate on MPAs and appreciate the invitation to comment, I am a bit puzzled by the below sentence: """Of course, compliance matters for MPAs and there is increasing confirmation that “stronger protection” yields better results (Cinner et al., 2014; Edgar et al., 2014; Kaplan et al., 2015; Gill et al., 2017) but enforcement is often difficult and adds additional costs to effective marine protection (Mora et al., 2006; Bergseth et al., 2017). Claudet (2017) argues that by erroneously assuming no take areas are free from poaching, the true benefits of strongly protected marine reserves are underestimated because more could be done to improve compliance.""

it appears that the authors make a difference between "protection" and enforcement. Not a native English speaker I see that these are two different words and I can even imagine cases where protection is something completely different than enforcement, for example when I protect my child from something that has nothing to do with enforcing a regulation or law, such as mosquito's. However, in this discussion, I wonder if the unclear sentence comes from uncertainty about the "appropriateness' of talking about enforcement for protection of areas under formal or informal regulations and rules of traditional or national law? the sentence starts with "of course" but then seems to weaken and in my view - confuse the matter. it gets even more confusing to me at least, when I read that enforcement adds costs to protection. what type of protection does not add costs I wonder? even protecting my child from mosquitos costs something - the price of a mosquito net and repellent for example.

I hope this comment is not taken the wrong way, it is great that this debate opens up, and I would really appreciate others thoughts on my question, whether we are feeling uncertain about discussing the enforcement part of MPA effectiveness. in my view and experience, failure of MPAs as a tool for biodiversity conservation and fisheries management, is always related to lack of 100% enforcing the rules (laws and/or traditional), and I worry that debating the effectiveness of MPAs - without being very clear about that - can result in incomplete and incorrect conclusions, with related "dropping of the ball" by foundations, other financial institutions, experts and NGOs on this very important strategy for preservation of our ocean's functions and life as we know it.

Hi:  In that sentence, we distinguish between enforcement and protection because protection may require a number of actions of which enforcement is just one.  The reason we point out that enforcement requires increased costs is because when we talk about MPAs as the most cost-effective type of marine protection, we often consider the outcomes of the very best MPAs (which involve considerable enforcement) but the costs of the average MPA.  I've yet to see a study that examines the cost-effectiveness of those MPAs that achieve the best outcomes.

Hope that clears things up.

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