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Socio-economic monitoring

Research and monitoring


MPAs are designated and designed for a variety of purposes, and even among MPAs with the conservation of fauna and/or flora as a primary focus, most contain a variety of human activities. Every MPA is therefore a human as well as an ecological system. The creation of an MPA, or management decisions applying to an MPA, may impart a range of financial and non-financial benefits, but may also impart costs to some groups due to restrictions on access to resources. MPA management plans could also place key social values at risk to a range of stakeholders and communities such as cultural and traditional practices and uses.

Socio-economic monitoring provides vital information on the distribution and intensity of potentially threatening activities within the MPA, and the economic costs and benefits of the MPA for different industries. By increasing MPA users’, specific user groups’, and the public’s understanding of the economic value of conservation activities within the MPA, conflict may be reduced [2].

Whale © Jayne Jenkins

Economic value of marine mammals in the MPA

MPA management in order to protect marine mammals must often compete against other uses, such as the shipping or fishing industries. Therefore, studies on the economic value of marine mammals can provide evidence for their direct economic value, in the form of jobs and income from tourism, and indirect benefits from ecosystem services, can provide managers and other decision-makers with a holistic understanding of the complex nexus between ecological, economic and social ecosystem values [3].

Socio-economic variables

When an MPA is planned, or when significant modifications to management are planned (such as zoning or fishing regulations), details of activities data such as shipping traffic, commercial fishing data, catch data, whale-watching and recreational fishing can better inform decision-makers of the costs and benefits of management decisions. This may involve the costs that arise from, for example, commercial fishing restrictions. Likewise, the benefits to industries such as tourism are able to be quantified.

Socio-economic data can also provide detailed spatio-temporal information about potential impacts of activities within the MPA. In the case of commercial net fishing, for example, this data can quantify what locations are subject to high or low impact at different times. Adaptive management of MPAs for the conservation of marine mammals can benefit from updated monitoring data (e.g. shipping traffic, commercial, artisanal or recreational fishing pressure etc.), the trends in these uses, and the effects of management actions on these threats [4].

Scientific research should be monitored. The number of projects (particularly specific to marine mammals), the MPA budget for research, the extent of external funding, and its sources, are important factors to consider when developing or reflecting on the research and monitoring strategy in the MPA [4].

Given the social, cultural, and traditional values, as well as economic values, placed upon marine mammals, and the areas in which they inhabit, socio-economic monitoring should also consider the potential impact of any management on actors, communities and relevant sectors. Where management may influence core values of stakeholders with high levels of dependency, alongside transparent planning processes, regular socioeconomic data collection should be implemented which commonly includes stakeholder interviews. Such variables to collect value data include age, gender, education, household income (derived from activities potentially impacted by management plans), usage patterns, level of MPA knowledge, management priorities and livelihood dependency. It is important to recognise that each community or set of actors will have specific needs and interests, and therefore the monitoring programme should aim to obtain a holistic representation.

Case study

The value of whale watching worldwide

Connor (2009) published an extensive report in 2009 funded by the International Fund for Animal welfare about the economic value of whale watching worldwide. In 2008, 13 million people participated in whale watching in 119 countries and territories, generating total expenditure of $2.1 billion. Furthermore, an estimated 3,300 operators offer whale watching trips around the world. The operators employ an estimated 13,200 people. Across the globe, the whale watching industry has grown at an average rate of 3.7% per year, comparing well against global tourism growth of 4.2% per year over the same period.

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