Dear MPA News:
Two things caught my eye in reading the article on human dimensions of MPAs in the July issue of MPA News (4:1).

First, in the section on the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, Superintendent Billy Causey’s comments about fisheries in the sanctuary being better than elsewhere in the region suggest that this is because of closed areas within the sanctuary, perhaps apart from or in combination with other sanctuary efforts to protect marine resources (e.g., water quality). However, the section on Indonesia makes a critical point that I think has not been explicitly addressed in the Florida Keys case: that is, when a community experiences social change following the designation of an MPA, researchers must determine whether the change occurred because of the MPA or as a result of another factor, or some combination of factors. In the Florida Keys, both the lobster trap reduction program implemented in the region by fishery managers in the early 1990s and other fishery management actions (e.g., Florida’s subsequent gillnet ban) may have played a role. Although the lobster trap program is noted in some discussions of the case, its relevance to observed changes in use patterns and outcomes in largely dismissed. Closed areas may indeed make a valuable contribution to fisheries, but that contribution must be explicitly evaluated in the broader context of environmental, regulatory and social change.

Second, regarding the section on Canada’s study of socioeconomics prior to setting MPA regulations, it is important to note that the approach used in that case is not so different from what is mandated by US law (federal, though not necessarily state). The US National Environmental Policy Act requires environmental impact assessment – including evaluation of impacts on the human environment – for any federal action that will affect the biophysical environment. Environmental impact assessment of a proposed action is required before the proposed action is taken, and is supposed to document the status quo and evaluate potential changes to the human as well as the biophysical environment. As I read it, the Canadian example is striking in its explicit attention to this matter as an integral step in the MPA process, rather than as a necessary, if inconvenient, task or box to be checked off.

Carrie Pomeroy, Ph.D.
Institute of Marine Sciences, Earth & Marine Sciences Building A316, University of California, Santa Cruz, CA 95064, USA. Tel: +1 831 459 5614; E-mail: