A new model for the management of Marine Protected Areas

A recent study published in Ocean & Coastal Management* presents a new conceptual framework to evaluate the efficiency of the Marine Protected Areas (MPA). The study is framed by the EMPAFISH project, which studies the effectiveness of MPAs in different European countries. The study aims to define and debate the ecological and socioeconomic variables that can be used as indicators in order to evaluate MPA efficiency.

Around 2.2 million km2 of marine waters, 0.6% of the world oceans and 1.5% of the total marine area under national jurisdiction, are currently protected. The spatial extent of marine areas protected globally has grown at an annual growth rate of 5.2% over the last two decades. Indicators, that could be defined as variables used to quantify or qualitatively describe phenomena that are not easily measured, are increasingly being used as management tools to address environmental issues and the effectiveness of implemented actions and policies.

The international team of scientists led by the University of Alicante based their work on a previous model, the Driving Force, Pressure, State, Impact and Response (DPSIR) model, established by the Organization for Cooperation and Economic Development (OCDE) in 1994. The main objectives of the study were to define a conceptual framework which improved the understanding of the complexity of linkages and feedbacks between the causes and effects within environmental issues in MPAs and to identify potential indicators with the help of the defined framework. Fishing and tourism have been chosen as Driving forces and the MPAs are the Response. A set of 149 variables, for example the number of fishing boats, the daily number of visitors, the quantity of key species, the total budget invested by governments in the areas, and the annual number of research projects, was selected to be used as potential indicators, although they have to be adapted to each particular case study.