Participation, process quality, and performance of marine protected areas in the wider Caribbean

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Throughout the wider Caribbean, marine protected areas (MPAs) are rapidly gaining momentum as a conservation tool, but management performance of existing MPAs is considered low. To enhance MPA management performance, stakeholders are increasingly being invited to discuss, debate, and develop rules about how people should interact with marine ecosystems. Using social and ecological data from a rapid assessment of 31 MPAs and their associated communities in the wider Caribbean, this study investigates stakeholder participation in MPA planning and management, and how participants’ views of process quality relate to MPA performance. Findings indicate that (1) participants tended to be male, resource users, participate in community organizations, and have lived fewer years in the community associated with an MPA than nonparticipants; (2) simply participating was not associated with perceptions of the social and ecological performance of MPAs, however, perceptions of process quality were positively related to views of performance; and (3) resource users’ perceptions of an MPA’s ecological performance were likely shaped by a variety of factors. Conservation practitioners should be aware that participatory MPA processes are complex and require careful planning if they are to contribute positively to marine conservation efforts.

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Environmental Management