A five-year study on the ecological, social, and economic dimensions of MPAs worldwide has released a series of three booklets on its findings. Aimed primarily at policy-makers, the concise reports present lessons gathered from more than 70 sites in 23 tropical countries. The publications recommend how to implement MPAs to maximize benefits for people and nature.

The study involved more than 400 scientists and 75 partner institutions, and was led by Conservation International’s Marine Management Area Science Program. “Marine managed areas (MMAs)* benefit not only biodiversity, but people,” says Leah Bunce Karrer, the study’s project director. “For example, based on 18 MMAs in Ecuador, Fiji, Belize, and Panama, we found that income is higher – and livelihood options are greater – for people associated with MMAs than for those who are not.”

She says that because MMAs focus governance efforts on a particular area, the sites tend to become a catalyst for an array of local community benefits. Across the full range of study sites, marine managed areas were found to improve food security, community empowerment, environmental awareness, human health, and community engagement. They also reduced user conflicts and provided greater recognition of traditional user rights such as fishing. “All of these benefits contribute to greater social and economic resilience in the face of a changing global economy and climate,” says Karrer. She notes, however, that the full benefits can take decades to be realized, and successful MMAs require sustained management and community compliance over that span.

The three booklets are:

  • People and Oceans – exploring the role of people in marine managed areas, including benefits to human well-being and how socioeconomic conditions can affect MMA success.
  • Living with the Sea – examining the role of MMAs in restoring and sustaining healthy oceans, particularly the importance of local management efforts.
  • Marine Managed Areas: What, Why, and Where – defining MMAs and the challenges of implementation.

These and other publications are available at the Science-to-Action partnership website: www.science2action.org.

* Editor’s note: The study defined the term marine managed area as “a multi-use ocean zoning scheme that usually includes various degrees of protection.” It used the terms marine managed area and marine protected area interchangeably, but preferred the former. “Despite the IUCN definition of MPAs as multi-use, MPAs are often assumed to be no-take and, consequently, are often highly controversial and difficult to get established and implemented,” says Karrer.