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Assessing Marine Protected Areas Effectiveness – part I

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parole chiave: Marine protected area, aree marine protette
Assessing Marine Protected Areas Effectiveness: A Case Study with the Tobago Cays Marine Park – part  I
by Alba Garcia Rodriguez, Lucia M. Fanning



Given the socio-economic consequences associated with declaring areas of ocean protected in order to achieve conservation objectives, this paper contributes to the growing global need to assess Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) as an effective management tool. It adds to the current body of knowledge on MPA effectiveness by conducting an evaluation of the Tobago Cays Marine Park (TCMP), located in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) in the eastern Caribbean, using a modified MPA effectiveness framework. Due to the limited information existing about the current performance of this MPA, this assessment also provides needed insight on the effect that the TCMP is having on the marine ecosystem, as well as its overall management performance. By comparing the performance of the MPA over a 10-year span (2007 and 2016), the results indicate that overall, the TCMP could be described as having limited success when key management categories of context, planning, input, process, output and outcomes are evaluated. In particular, efforts dedicated to planning, process and outcomes are assessed as deficient. Furthermore, the analysis revealed that efforts to realize the stated goals relating to conservation, public awareness and public education were being neglected. However, considerable effort was being expended by TCMP staff on achieving the remaining goal focusing on deriving economic benefits from touristic activities in the Park. Preliminary field research examining the effects of the TCMP on the abundance and density of an economically important species, Lobatus gigas, (commonly referred to as the queen conch) showed the TCMP as having no effect towards conch protection. The results and recommendations of this study, combined with continued monitoring of a recommended targeted suite of indicators, could contribute to better-informed adaptive MPA management, leading to progress towards the achievement of the stated goals for the TCMP.

Marine Protected Areas, MPA Effectiveness, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Tobago Cays Marine Park, Evaluation Framework, Queen Conch


1. Introduction
During the past decades, human activities have severely modified and shaped the marine environment. Fishing practices, fossil fuels consumption, the need for mineral products, and land-based pollution are some of the activities that have been generating important changes in the ocean [1] [2]. The consequences of these activities, particularly when highly developed, often result in negative impacts on the marine biota and the humans who depend on them [3] [4] [5] [6]. These impacts have over time brought attention to the need for better marine management and conservation measures [7] [8] [9] [10].

Effective marine management is the required mechanism to ensure the sustainable use of the ocean’s resources and to develop conservation strategies. Through marine management and conservation, the impacts of climate change, overfishing, pollution, etc. can be mitigated, and ecosystem resilience can be enhanced [11] [12] [13]. In order to maintain functional and productive marine ecosystems, it is essential to minimize or remove the threats to which these systems are exposed. One response for minimizing these threats is the use of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). MPAs can be defined as clearly outlined geographical spaces that are designated and managed to achieve the conservation of marine ecosystems from a long-term perspective [14]. MPAs have been recognized as one of the best tools for the conservation of marine ecosystems as they are intended to limit anthropogenic activities [15] [16] [17]. However, by establishing an MPA, there is no assurance that it will inherently result in positive impacts on the environment. Currently, many scientists still argue about their actual effectiveness, considering the conservation goals they aim to achieve [18] [19].


Since MPAs are not physical barriers, the ecosystem existing within their boundaries could still be exposed to pollution, temperature increase, ocean acidification, and other indirect threats. In addition, the size of the MPA could be insufficient to meet its conservation purpose [20]. Furthermore, there could be a lack of compliance and/or enforcement of the MPA regulations, resulting in a legally recognized MPA that is actually not being managed. However, MPAs have been shown in some instances to reduce human threats to marine ecosystems and have been proven to increase biodiversity, biomass, and ecosystem health if they are adequately designated, and well managed [16] [21]. To date, only 2.2% of the world’s oceans are protected [22] and only about 33% of these MPAs might be truly effective, defined as “the degree to which management actions are achieving the goals and objectives of the protected area” [23].

Currently, no standard method for evaluating effectiveness has been recognized, and thus measurements vary among MPAs. Additionally, given their place-based nature, the effectiveness of MPAs needs to be evaluated on a case-by-case study to determine if management improvements or other conservation measures are being achieved or indeed, even necessary for that particular area [24]. Given the socio-economic consequences associated with declaring areas of ocean protected in order to achieve conservation objectives, this paper contributes to the growing global need to assess MPAs as an effective management tool. The purpose of this study is to develop an adapted MPA evaluation framework to monitor MPA effectiveness and to test the framework using the Tobago Cays Marine Park (TCMP), located in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) in the eastern Caribbean. Due to the limited information existing about the current performance of the TCMP, this assessment provides needed insight on the effect that this MPA is having on the marine ecosystem, as well as its overall management performance.

This study aims to develop the evaluation framework based on a modification to the scorecard system developed by the World Bank [25] [26] and incorporating MPA performance indicators recommended by Pomeroy et al. [23]. Moreover, in order to evaluate the TCMP as a functioning MPA, this study then assesses its performance regarding the different parts of the management process using the modified evaluation framework as well as compares the results obtained in 2016 with a partially conducted evaluation in 2007. In order to provide more information of the TCMP performance, this desktop assessment is supplemented with field research designed to assess the outcome of the management measures in place at TCMP by examining the effects of this MPA on the abundance of an economically important species, Lobatus gigas, commonly referred to as the queen conch. Finally, this study aims to provide recommendations on additional indicators for improving the monitoring and evaluation of the TCMP to achieve its stated goals, as well as recommendations to improve the management effectiveness of the Park and provide lessons for other MPAs.

2. Study Area
SVG is located in the West Indies (southeastern Caribbean Sea). Comprised of 32 islands, the country has some 390 km2 of land, and 406 km of coastline (Figure 1). As with most Caribbean islands, tourism is an important contributor to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and foreign exchange earnings [27] [28]. The TCMP, established in 1986, is a 51.8 km2 MPA located in the southern territory of SVG. It was originally proposed to facilitate increasing tourism in the country as the area was identified as the most popular destination for marine tourism in the region [29] [30].

Figure 1. Map showing location of St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the south-east Caribbean (Source: Aly De Graff Ollivierre).

The TCMP, established in 1986, is a 51.8 km2 MPA located in the southern territory of SVG. It was originally proposed to facilitate increasing tourism in the country as the area was identified as the most popular destination for marine tourism in the region [29] [30]. The MPA comprises the east side of Mayreau Island, five uninhabited Cays (Petit Bateau, Petit Rameau, Baradel, Jamesby, and Petit Tabac), and the surrounding marine area [27] [28] [29] (Figure 2). According to the SVG Census Office, in 2012 Mayreau had an estimated population of 271 inhabitants [31]. The Marine Protected Area comprises many types of coral reefs, sea grass beds, and patches of endangered mangrove ecosystems. In addition, it is a nursery area for conch, lobster, fish, and green turtles. Furthermore, the Tobago Cays present the largest seagrass bed of the country [27] [29] [30].

Figure 2. Satellite map of the TCMP

This area is regulated under the SVG National Parks Authority, and managed by the TCMP as a statutory body. In addition, regulations and laws are implemented by the TCMP [29] .

According to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the TCMP Management Plan of 2007, the goals of TCMP can be summarized as:
(1) Enhance conservation and management of biological diversity of the area;
(2) Sustain economic benefits from the use of existing natural resources;
(3) Increase public awareness of environmental issues and create a strong resources management system;
and (4) Contribute to public education to increase engagement and achieve the objectives of the management plan [29] [31]. To date, the effectiveness of the TCMP as an MPA has not been conducted although a partial assessment of the management process was undertaken in 2007 [29].

3. The Modified MPA Effectiveness Framework
3.1. Adapted Scorecard for Measuring MPA Effectiveness
The scorecard developed by the World Bank in 2004 for assessing MPA effectiveness originally included 34 questions distributed among six categories, namely context, planning, inputs, process, output, and outcome [25] . The scorecard was adapted by supplementing the questions identified for the “process” category with 36 indicators developed by Pomeroy et al. [23] , focusing on the identification and evaluation of the goals of the MPA as well as on communicating the improvements needed in the management of the evaluated MPA (see Appendix 1 in Part III). This modification of the original scorecard was viewed as improving the evaluation of the effectiveness of the MPA by acquiring more monitoring details and to guide the selection of the best indicators to be measured according to the MPA’s goals. To achieve this, questions in the Process category were adapted. Question 19 of the original scorecard was divided into three separate questions to address specific biophysical, socioeconomic, and governance indicators (Question 19, 23 and 25) and the relevant indicators from Pomeroy et al. [23] for each of these were then assigned as illustrated in Questions 20, 24 and 26 (see Appendix 1 in Part III). Lastly, to conduct a more comprehensive evaluation of the monitoring activities undertaken within the MPA, the adapted scorecard was modified to also incorporate questions on the different spatial and temporal scales being measured as recommended by Stelzenmuller and Pinnegar in 2011 [26] , as well as the frequency for monitoring biophysical indicators (Questions 21 and 22, in Appendix 1).

To obtain a preliminary assessment of the TCMP using the adapted evaluation framework, responses to the questions were obtained based on a literature review of key TCMP’s management and monitoring documents (e.g. the TCMP management plan, as well as previous assessments and documents describing the area and its management) and in person experience in the area while conducting research on the TCMP [27] [29] [32] [33] [34] . The majority of the indicators were scored on a scale of 0 to 3 (three being scored on a scale of 0 to 2 due to the nature of the questions), with the opportunity for bonus points to be awarded. Effectiveness was calculated based on percent of maximum allowable score obtainable where 0% – 29% was deemed “deficient”, 30% – 49% was “limited”, 50% – 69% was “fair”, 70% – 79% was “good” and more than 80% was considered to be “excellent”.

In addition to the assessment of the TCMP performance in 2016 using the modified scorecard comprised of both the original and supplemental questions, a comparative assessment was undertaken of the results obtained in 2016 using the adapted scorecard with the 2007 assessment using the original scorecard [25]. This comparison allowed for improvements in the effectiveness of the TCMP over a ten-year period to be determined as well as highlighted the additional management information gleaned from a more in-depth monitoring scorecard when assessing MPA effectiveness in 2016.

3.2. Queen Conch Density Surveys to Measure MPA Effectiveness
As noted by scholars and practitioners in the field of MPA management, the ultimate objective of MPAs is to enhance marine conservation. To determine whether this outcome has been achieved by the TCMP, the desktop assessment using the adapted scorecard was supplemented with in situ fieldwork aimed at assessing queen conch abundance and density inside and outside of the Park. Queen conch is a very important resource (environmentally, economically, and culturally) in SVG, as well as in most Caribbean countries. Current management regulations for queen conch in the Grenadines include size limits and protected fishing areas such as the TCMP [35] . However, the TCMP has had many management problems since its creation, and the effect that this MPA might be having in regards to queen conch conservation is not clear. In order to measure the effect of the TCMP on conch abundance to determine its contribution to conch conservation, a stratified random sampling approach was conducted. Underwater surveys were conducted outside (six surveys) and inside the MPA (six surveys). The sites were identified after considering the bathymetry of the area, information on conch distribution provided by the fishing community, and suitable habitats where conch could be found (Figure 3). Each underwater survey consisted on four belt transects of 30 m length and 2 m wide (north, west, south, and east of a deployed buoy on the coordinates of each site), where data on conch abundance was gathered.

The total density of conch in the study area was obtained by calculating the total area surveyed and the amount of conch encountered within that area. The total area sampled in the study area was 5,760 m2 (0.576 hectares), with an equal area surveyed inside and outside the TCMP. Conch density inside the TCMP was obtained using the total area sampled within its boundaries (0.288 hectares).

Figure 3. Survey sites map. Light blue areas indicate shallow areas (0 – 10 meters), and dark blue areas indicate deeper areas (10 – 20 meters). Survey sites are marked with an orange circle.

The same procedure was used to obtain conch density in the Union area outside the MPA. Conch density found inside the Park was compared to conch densityfound outside, in total and by maturity stage (juveniles and adults). Conch with lip thickness less than 4 mm and shell length less than 20 cm were considered juveniles [36] [37] . Using the statistical software SPSS, Shapiro-Wilk normality tests were used to obtain information on the distribution of the data. Due to the reduced sample size and the distribution pattern of this species, the data did not follow a normal distribution for any of the conducted tests. Therefore, nonparametric analyses were conducted. Specifically, the Wilcoxon signed-rank test was used to conduct pairwise comparisons among groups. The TCMP Rangers provided boat access to the survey sites as well as participated in the surveys.

Fine Parte I – continua


email: Alba.GarciaRodriguez@dal.ca – lucia.fanning@dal.ca
Copyright © 2017 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution International License (CC BY 4.0). http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/






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