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Assessing Marine Protected Areas Effectiveness – part III

Reading Time: 11 minutes

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livello medio
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ARGOMENTO: ECOLOGIA
PERIODO: XX SECOLO
AREA: OCEANO ATLANTICO
parole chiave: Marine protected area, aree marine protette
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Assessing Marine Protected Areas Effectiveness: A Case Study with the Tobago Cays Marine Park – part  III by Alba Garcia Rodriguez, Lucia M. Fanning

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5. Discussion
The focus of this paper has been to draw attention to the current status of the TCMP in meeting its stated goals, using a modified assessment framework. The results indicate areas in which the Park is doing an adequate job as well as challenges that need to be addressed. Overall, lack of dependable resources (funding and expertise) as well as lack of appropriate authority have been identified as significant factors limiting effective Park management. However, a key observation that bodes well for the TCMP is the support and interest of external organizations, both within SVG (e.g. SusGren) and more broadly (e.g. TNC, external researchers and the AGGRA Program to name a few). However, maximizing these opportunities to address shortcomings by the TCMP will require greater involvement of Park staff in communicating its specific needs and raising stakeholder awareness and involvement in contributing to meeting its stated goals. The following discussion on the scorecard results, the findings with respect to achievement of Park goals, and the preliminary assessment of the role of the Park in conserving an important economic fishery are offered as a means of informing the development of a targeted collaborative approach to enhance the management of the TCMP.

5.1. Scorecard Results
While the TCMP’s performance increased over the 10-year period between 2007 and 2016, especially with regard to Context, Inputs and Outputs, there is still considerable room for improvement. This is particularly evident in the assessment of Planning, Process, and Outcomes. Furthermore, management practices and outcomes are still deficient when considering all the previously stated goals of the TCMP. In order to increase overall effectiveness, the MPA should be evaluated with relative frequency (ideally every two to three years) to improve opportunities for adaptive management and address issues in need of greater attention. The modified framework for assessing performance provides a suite of indicators from which the TCMP, in collaboration with interested partners could enhance the overall understanding of the progress being made (or not) within each of the six management categories, with particular emphasis on improving process related activities.

To enhance outcomes addressing the goals of public engagement, awareness and education, after each monitoring and evaluation cycle, a series of meetings should be held to discuss the findings with all relevant stakeholders and to consider how current management activities should be modified. This should be a joint effort undertaken with Park staff, even if facilitated by an external organization. It has been noted that before performance monitoring and evaluation can be well-integrated within the regular management practices, MPAs often need “major institutional reorientation at the policy level” [38]. Perhaps, by developing incentives, and engaging the community to expect performance information of the TCMP, managers could start conducting performance reports, allowing for a higher connection between the community and the management of this MPA again, as was the case in 2007.

5.2. TCMP Performance in Achieving Stated Goals
The TCMP has four main goals, of which it seems that only the second one (sustain economic benefits from the use of existing natural resources) is being achieved. The other three goals relate to marine conservation, public awareness and resources management, and public education and engagement.

Goal 1: Enhance conservation and management of biological diversity of the area.
Regarding the first goal, monitoring of several biophysical indicators has been conducted with relative frequency, mostly by external organizations or during ad hoc external research. However, the purpose behind these efforts seemed to have had no specific connection with improving TCMP management actions. There is an apparent disconnect between management and monitoring in the TCMP, limiting any opportunity for the implementation of adaptive management. This could be from the lack of a requirement by external researchers to provide the TCMP managers with their research proposal or their findings after completing their research. Furthermore, when research relevant to the TCMP is completed, it may not be published or the TCMP managers may not be aware that it has been published or have access to the publication, even if the data could be of use. In addition, the TCMP does not generally conduct research as part of its own activities.

Goal 2: Sustain economic benefits from the use of existing natural resources.
Emphasis on achieving Goal 2 has been the main focus of TCMP staff. According to observations in the area, most of the TCMP resources, staff, and budget are used to collect fees from boats visiting the TCMP, and to maintain the moorings. These economic benefits are the major source of funding of the MPA and staff salaries, and no doubt account for the attention given to this goal. Given the array of different expertise that would be needed to monitor progress towards the other stated goals, it would seem likely that a higher budget and additional staff will be needed if all of the goals become the focus of the Park management. Alternately, the re-structuring of current resources and workplans could be explored as well as developing more collaborative and formal linkages with external organizations that explicitly specify how their activities could contribute towards enhanced management of the Park.

Goal 3 and Goal 4: Increase public awareness of environmental issues and create a strong resources management system; and contribute to public education to increase engagement and achieve the objectives of the management plan.
The focus on these goals was very evident during the draft of the management plan. However, after the plan was drafted and finally accepted, activities relating to its achievement appeared to have been dropped. During the drafting of the management plan, it was noted that management of the TCMP “should be people-centered and participatory”. It was also stated that two particularly relevant aspects were public education and monitoring [33]. However, the priority documents that were generated in 2007 mostly targeted visitors instead of the local community. Other expected outputs such as educational materials for school children were similarly not given priority. Finally and as noted above, research plans involving the TCMP (including surveys and analyses) are not developed or implemented by the TCMP and as such, do not play a key role in increasing public awareness and education about the resource management system for the TCMP. The measures identified in the management plan aimed to increase the effectiveness of the management of the Park. However, it seems that they were not, or only partially, implemented. In 2002, Day, Hockings, & Jones stated that “while monitoring and evaluation programs are supported in principle, they often get displaced by more ‘urgent’ (though often less important) day-to-day management activities” [39]. We suggest that this displacement could also happen at the level of goals. In the case of the TCMP, it seems monitoring activities and performance evaluations for three of the four goals identified for the Park were displaced by the need to maintain an adequate mooring systems so as to obtain economic benefits from tourism inside the MPA. Perhaps, if external funding (not originating from the fees collected inside the MPA) was secured on an annual basis, a higher focus on achieving the remaining goals would be developed. Until then, it is possible that major efforts at TCMP will be directed towards Goal 2.

5.3. TCMP Effectiveness Based on Conch Density
Results obtained on density and abundance of queen conch showed no significant difference inside and outside of the Park, even though conch had a higher density inside the TCMP borders than in nonprotected areas around Union Island. However, it is important to note that overall conch abundance has been reported as decreasing in the area as a result of overfishing, according to local knowledge [29]. As such, the TCMP could potentially have cushioned that decrease, contributing to the conservation of this species although not from a statistically significant perspective. It is well known that excessive fishing pressure is usually responsible for conch decrease in multiple Caribbean countries [38]. However, the TCMP is a no-take MPA, and as such, it should be reasonable to discount conch fishing as a reason underlying the apparent lack of influence of the TCMP on the conservation of this species within the Park boundaries. Nevertheless, it is also known in the community and by the TCMP Rangers that some illegal fishing activities are still occurring inside the TCMP, so fishing activities could partially explain the results obtained. On the other hand, water quality could also be having major impacts on the abundance of this species. Conch are very sensitive to water quality changes due to their specific habitat requirements [40]. It is important to remember that the TCMP was originally created with tourism increase purposes. However, few measures to manage tourism activities were taken at the time, and the management plan does not include regulations for tourism except for the designation of special zones for anchoring [30]. According to a recent study by Reed, about 50,000 visitors and about 8,600 yachts entered the TCMP in 2015 [41]. It is known that vessels visiting the MPA could be decreasing water quality levels due to sewage waste generated by these vessels, and therefore regulations such as holding tank release restrictions have been recommended. Given the decrease in water quality caused by some twenty years of non-managed tourism activities, it is conceivable that this could be an important cause for the lack of effect of the TCMP regarding queen conch conservation.

Currently, the TCMP is in the process of implementing a yacht management plan to reduce the impacts that anchoring has inside the MPA, including tourism-oriented management measures for the first time [41]. This plan calls for enhanced water quality monitoring, as well as data collection on yacht impacts. It is also likely that this information will contribute to a better understanding of the carrying capacity inside the MPA for tourism. In addition, by analyzing water quality data and yacht abundance, poor water quality or degraded areas could be identified [41]. In order to ensure the health of the marine ecosystem and that adequate management is being implemented, it is essential to continue monitoring marine life, as well as other indicators such as water quality. We contend that the adapted framework can serve as an improved guide for ensuring all six management categories and four outcomes are tracked using indicators that provide needed data for informed decision making and adaptive management. However, recognizing the limited resources, dependence on external expertise and funding that limits implementation of a planned monitoring program, at a minimum, a focus on indicators tracking TCMP goals (Table 6) should be explicitly guiding monitoring decisions undertaken by Park staff or in discussions with external organizations. If monitoring continues and the necessary measures to preserve this area are taken (e.g. the successful implementation of a yacht management plan), the TCMP could significantly contribute to the conservation of multiple marine species such as conch, corals, and others as well as enhance the economic benefits to be obtained from a well-managed marine ecosystem.

The adapted framework developed in this study can certainly be used to evaluate other MPAs in order to test their effectiveness as management measures. The use of the adapted framework should be followed by the identification of a set of indicators that could be measured in the MPA to track its progress over time. These indicators might be different from the ones presented in this study, as they should fit the MPA goals, challenges, and management capacity. Considering that only 33% of the worlds MPAs could be truly effective, the need to evaluate them in a comprehensive manner is clear. In order to achieve the desired outcomes from the implementation of MPAs, these assessments should be conducted, so their performance can be improved.

6. Conclusions
MPAs have been found to be effective tools for marine conservation when they are adequately designated and managed. Management challenges encountered at the TCMP need to be overcome for it to achieve its full potential. For this purpose, the evaluation of the TCMP’s effectiveness needs to be carried out with relative frequency to be able to determine the management actions that need improvement to reach the desired goals. In addition, it would be critical that the TCMP does not lose the perspective on the goals that they were originally trying to achieve. Currently, the TCMP needs to improve their planning, process, and outcomes in terms of their management actions, as well as to improve their monitoring strategies, and their ability to incorporate research data into their management actions. In addition, the TCMP needs to develop a higher focus on education, stakeholder participation, and stakeholder engagement. It is essential to develop the necessary tools and platforms to promote integrated planning and implementation, collaboration, and information sharing between managers, external researchers and the TCMP staff, and between the community and the TCMP staff. In addition, it is important to develop strategies in which an annual budget for the management of the TCMP can be secured, and it is important that this is not only linked to tourism visitation. Tourism threats should be further identified and included as part of the management plan in order to reduce them. The carrying capacity of this MPA should also be determined in order to promote the sustainable use of the TCMP. Furthermore, the enforcement capacity of the TCMP should improve, as currently its staff does not have the authority to fine infractions occurring in the area, such as anchoring in restricted areas. Finally, the enforcement capacity of the TCMP should cover all regulations and monitoring of activities that are necessary to focus on the achievement of their goals.

Meeting current management, conservation, and socioeconomic needs of the MPA, investing in research activities, using available data to improve management, and conducting performance evaluations are the only way in which the TCMP will be able to become a successful and fully operational MPA at a time when effective marine management and protection are urgently required. Finally, the results of the evaluation conducted in this study can provide insights and lessons for other MPAs and managers. The authors encourage the use of the adapted scorecard as well as the identification of recommended indicators to evaluate other MPAs in order to enhance the overall performance of MPAs around the globe, and to encourage the adequate conservation of our marine resources.
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Alba Garcia Rodriguez and Lucia M. Fanning
Marine Affairs Program, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
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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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PARTE I PARTE II

PARTE III

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Acknowledgements
Part of this study was conducted under the Eastern Caribbean Marine Managed Areas Network (ECMMAN) Project, in collaboration with the Tobago Cays Marine Park, the National Parks and Beaches Authority of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Sustainable Grenadines Inc. The authors would like to thank Sustainable Grenadines Inc., the TCMP staff and the community of Union Island for their support during this research.

Cite this paper
Garcia Rodriguez, A. and Fanning, L.M. (2017) Assessing Marine Protected Areas Effectiveness: A Case Study with the Tobago Cays Marine Park. Open Journal of Marine Science, 7, 379-408. https://doi.org/10.4236/ojms.2017.73027

References
28. World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) (2017) Travel and Tourism Economic Impact Caribbean. World Travel and Tourism Council, London. https://www.wttc.org/-/media/files/reports/economic-impact-research/regions-2017/caribbean2017.pdf   

29. Hoggarth, D. (2007) Tobago Cays Marine Park 2007-2009 Management Plan. Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, and Environment and Sustainable Development Unit, St. Lucia.   [Citation Time(s):8]

30. United Nations Environment Programme (2014) Proposed Areas for Inclusion in the SPAW List. Annotated Format for Presentation Report for: Tobago Cays Marine Park, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. United Nations Environment Programme, Kingston.  [Citation Time(s):3]

31. The Census Office (2012) 2012 Population & Housing Census: Preliminary Report. St. Vincent & the Grenadines Population & Housing. Central Planning Division, Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, Suitland.   

32. Deschamps, A., Desrochers, A. and Klomp, K.D. (2003) A Rapid Assessment of the Horseshoe Reef, Tobago Cays Marine Park, St. Vincent, West Indies (Stony Corals, Algae and Fishes). Atoll Research Bulletin, 496, 438-458. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.00775630.496-24.438  

33. Ecoengineering Caribbean Limited (2007) Environmental and Socio-Economic Studies for OPAAL Demonstration Sites. Tobago Cays Site Report, St. Vincent and the Grenadines. (Eco Report No. 06). Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States Environment and Sustainable Development Unit, St. Augustine, Trinidad, West Indies.   

34. Phillips, M. and Hewitt, K. (2015) Eastern Caribbean Marine Managed Areas Network (ECMANN) Project. Component 3: Prioritizing Sites in the SVG MMA System for Application of Key Management Actions. Sustainable Grenadines Incorporation, St. Vincent, 11.  

35. Food and Agriculture Organization (2007) Regional Workshop on the Monitoring and Management of Queen Conch, Strombus gigas (FAO Fisheries Report No. 832) Food and Agriculture Organization, Kingston, 186. 

36. Egan, B.D. (1985) Aspects of the Reproductive Biology of Strombus Gigas. University of British Columbia, Vancouver.  

37. Clark, S.A., Danylchuk, A.J. and Freeman, B.T. (2005) The Harvest of Juvenile Queen Conch (Strombus gigas) off Cape Eleuthera, Bahamas: Implications for the Effectiveness of a Marine Reserve. Proceedings of the Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute, 56, 705-714.   

38. Townsend, J. (2012) Petition to List Queen Conch (Strombas gigas) under the Endangered Species Act. WildEarth Guardians, Santa Fe.  

39. Day, J., Hockings, M. and Jones, G. (2002) Measuring Effectiveness in Marine Protected Areas: Principles and Practice. World Congress on Aquatic Protected Areas, 18, 401-404.   

40. Appeldoorn, R.S., Gonzalez, E.C., Glazer, R. and Prada, M. (2011) Applying EBM to Queen Conch Fisheries in the Caribbean. In: Fanning, L., Mahon, R. and Mcconney, P., Eds., Towards Marine Ecosystem-Based Management in the Wider Caribbean, Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam, 177-186.   

41. Reed, M. (2016) Adaptive Moorings Management Plan for Tobago Cays Marine Park, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Sustainable Grenadines Incorporation and The Nature Conservancy for Tobago Cays Marine Park with Funding from United States Agency for International Development, Arlington.   

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Appendix 1
Criteria for scoring MPA effectiveness

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