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An overview of Marine Protected Areas in SW Europe: Factors contributing to their management effectiveness
Batista, M.I.; Cabral, H.N. (2016). An overview of Marine Protected Areas in SW Europe: Factors contributing to their management effectiveness. Ocean Coast. Manag. 132: 15-23.
In: Ocean & Coastal Management. Elsevier Science: Barking. ISSN 0964-5691; e-ISSN 1873-524X, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Author keywords
    Environmental management; Convention for biological diversity; OSPAR; MSFD; MPA effectiveness; Stakeholders

Authors  Top 
  • Batista, M.I.
  • Cabral, H.N.

    Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are considered key elements to the achievement of conservation and sustainable marine management targets. Yet, even if recently the number of MPAs has increased rapidly worldwide, the area of ocean under some type of MPA classification is far behind the international targets (e.g. Convention on Biological Diversity) considered essential for conservation of the world's oceans. Furthermore, coherence, representativeness and effectiveness of existing MPAs are largely unknown or even weakly defined. In this study, general characteristics of MPAs from Portugal, Spain and France were collected and used to evaluate conservation progress in this geographic area. In addition, an online questionnaire was administered to the MPAs managers, and focused on multiple processes inherent to each MPA, namely on the characteristics and suitability of planning, management, monitoring, governance and enforcement. Obtained responses were used to calculate the overall level of MPA management effectiveness, and multivariate analyses were used to identify the factors that most contributed to differences in effectiveness. Most MPAs are adjacent to the coast, are small in area (near 50% have less than 20 km2) and were established with multiple goals concerning species conservation and sustainable development of economic activities (e.g. fisheries). Only 9% of analysed MPAs are larger than 1000 km2 and are unequally distributed among the study area. Overall, 46% of MPAs and 59% of total area covered were established during the last five years, while only 3 of the 35 no-take areas (22% in area) were implemented during this period. High MPA effectiveness (i.e. the extent to which an MPA is protecting values and achieving its goals and objectives) was related with high levels of stakeholders support, with suitable goals, management and enforcement. Results highlighted the need to improve MPA coverage taking into account other existing MPAs to increase coherence and representativeness of networks, that new no-take areas should be implemented in key conservation sites and that management strategies (e.g. enforcement and monitoring) should be strengthened. These findings are applicable to the study area yet methodology and outcomes are pertinent to MPA management worldwide. Ultimately, strategies aiming at maximizing MPA performance are probably as important as the increase of MPA coverage.

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