Inadequate staff and budget capacity are compromising the efficacy of marine protected areas (MPAs), according to a study in Nature.
In 2011, 193 countries agreed that by 2020, 10% of the world’s coastal and marine areas should be managed within MPAs - areas where, for conservation purposes, human activity is restricted - and by other conservation measures. However, the efficacy of many MPAs remains unclear and evidence suggests that they often fail to deliver positive social and ecological outcomes.
David Gill and colleagues developed a global database of management data and fish population data from 433 and 218 MPAs, respectively. The authors found that the majority of MPAs had a positive impact on fish populations (71% of the 218 MPAs for which fish population data was collected), but this effect was highly variable. When the authors compared the management and ecological data of 62 MPAs in 24 countries, they found that staff capacity was the most important factor in explaining fish responses to MPA protection (accounting for 19% of the variation in ecological outcomes), with budget second. MPAs with adequate staff capacity were found to have ecological effects 2.9 times greater than those with inadequate capacity.
The authors suggest that the continued global expansion of MPAs without adequate investment in staff and financial capacity is likely to lead to sub-optimal conservation outcomes.