Multiple perspectives for envisioning marine protected areas

This thesis provides the first direct comparison between – and integration of – community-based and science-based approaches to the establishment of marine protected areas (MPAs). MPAs are one potentially effective conservation tool, but are being established very slowly. My research shows that community involvement in placing MPAs can help meet many ecological goals, although biophysical data improve the conservation value of sitings.

To assess the need for MPAs in British Columbia (BC), Canada, I mapped stressors resulting from human activities. This produced a powerful rationale for MPAs: very little of the ocean, and almost none of the continental shelf of BC, lies beyond the reach of human stressors. My work helps reconcile differing perspectives about the efficacy of community-based vs. science-based MPA selection. I explored and analyzed these approaches, separately and together, in two areas in BC.

First, I generated a community-based plan for MPA placement through partnerships with two First Nations (indigenous peoples) in BC. They offered strong support for spatial protection measures, and individuals nominated overlapping areas.

Second, I applied a decision support tool (Marxan) to determine MPA placement under scientific precepts. Conservation planning usually lacks detailed ecological information but the Marxan approach was robust to some missing data; in such cases, it was best to use available abiotic and biotic data to ensure that both habitats and species were represented.

Third, I integrated community-based and science-based approaches, to find that they verified and complemented each other. Indeed, an integration of the two was preferred by participants and also achieved all conservation objectives.

Finally, I took a novel and pragmatic approach to ocean zoning. I used spatial data for thirteen commercial fisheries on Canada’s west coast to select areas where fishing should be permitted, rather than prohibiting fishing under a MPA paradigm.

The results revealed that small reductions in fisheries yields, if judiciously selected, could allow creation of large unfished areas that embraced diverse biophysical regions and habitat types. Such a pragmatic approach could achieve remarkable conservation gains.

Ban, N.C. 2008. Multiple perspectives for envisioning marine protected areas. Doctoral dissertation, University of British Columbia, Canada.