Marine protected area (MPA) management effectiveness is a formal measure of the degree to which an MPA’s stated goals and objectives are being achieved. Every MPA, when established, is assigned specific objectives and protective measures. Some,for example,are designated no-take zones; others are intended to serve as multiple-use areas or as marine wilderness areas.
Establishing MPAs and subsequently monitoring their effectiveness are two key components of building an ecologically representative and functional network of marine and coastal protected areas. MPAs preserve critical habitat, provide refugia and replenishment zones for heavily exploited species (for example, queen conch, D10), and facilitate regulatory enforcement and educational outreach.
We recommend that MPA effectiveness evaluations be routinely conducted according to a regionally standardized method and that the results be used for site-specific and region-wide network management.The results can help inform management decisions, improve project planning, and accountability. Comparisons across the network and analyses of trends can help to elucidate, for example, the effects of MPA size or management style.
One approach to synthesizing a collection of dissimilar effectiveness studies independently scores three fields of evaluation: Biophysical, Socioeconomic, Governance (some mixture of which should be covered in any effectiveness study).
A recent MAR synthesis using this approach concluded that there is a critical need for application of a standardized evaluation methodology in the region.10
A promising sign of Benchmark progress toward maximizing MPA effectiveness would be:
- Consolidated management at all MPAs11
— Between 2000 and 2006, Belize made good progress, adding new MPAs and increasing the proportion under consolidated management.12
- Development of a regional, standardized, comprehensive
method to evaluate MPA effectiveness — This method should incorporate all three recommended
fields of evaluation (as adopted by the MBRS project, for example).
- Routine, comprehensive effectiveness evaluations at > 70% of MPAs — In 2000, 33% of MPAs in Belize performed evaluations, but only for the governance field.10
- Incorporation of all MPA-effectiveness data in an accessible database.