Protect the sea, neglect the people? Social impact of marine conservation programs revealed
Governments and international organizations are broadening marine conservation goals to stem the worrying depletion of biodiversity and fish stocks around the world. A new study now demonstrates the wide range of unintended impacts such conservation efforts have on affected communities.
Published today in the leading international development journal World Development, the research presents a groundbreaking case study of the Cambodian archipelago of Koh Sdach combined with a transnational statistical analysis of the impacts of marine conservation in South Asian communities. -Is :
- The detailed and up-close analysis demonstrates a mix of positive and negative impacts:
- On the positive side, communities may find economic relief from slowing deterioration in fish stocks and, in the case of Cambodia as a country emerging from conflict, even improved relations with the state.
- The negative consequences included social division, increased anxiety over livelihoods and a false sense of economic security.
- Overall and regionally in Southeast Asia, long-term community exposure to marine protection programs has been linked to declining wealth and increasing child mortality. .
Current research on surrounding marine protected areas (MPAs) has focused on pragmatic issues of effectiveness in protecting marine resources, good governance and compliance. Little work has been done to date on the âhuman dimensionâ of marine conservation and its unintended socio-economic consequences.
To assess the impact of marine conservation programs on affected communities, researchers adapted international development research techniques, developing a conceptual framework and using a qualitative case study of marine protection in Cambodia in combination with secondary household survey data from across Southeast Asia to address this research. difference.
The case study revealed that although the establishment of the Koh Sdach Community Fisheries Organization has had positive results, such as slowing the deterioration of marine resources and encouraging diversification into tourism, it There were negative social consequences as well – some groups remained unintentionally excluded, others evaded participation and adherence to its rules, and still others struggled with the consequences of law enforcement, including threats personal injury.
Quantitative analysis revealed that MPAs in Cambodia, the Philippines and Timor-Leste tended to initially emerge in relatively affluent socio-economically communities, but prolonged exposure was associated with a slower pace of wealth development. household, education and infant mortality. .
The authors therefore argue that the targeted expansion of marine protected areas – up to 50% of global marine areas – neglects the social realities and livelihoods of affected communities.
The researchers recommend that the environmental goals of marine protection be complemented by social impact assessments and livelihood support programs that help mitigate disruption to community life.
Lead author Dr Haenssgen comments: âThe importance of the ecological impacts of marine conservation is indisputable, but we also need to ensure that such interventions are socially sustainable.
“What makes our study special in this regard is our use of cutting-edge social research approaches, both conceptual and methodological, that help unravel the social dimensions of marine protection at the micro and macro levels.”
The social research study included a team of researchers from the University of Warwick and South East Asia led by Dr Marco J Haenssgen, assistant professor of global sustainability. It is part of a larger research project to understand and inform about marine conservation called âProtected Areas and Peopleâ and funded by the UK’s Global Challenges Research Fund.
Project leader and co-author Dr Jessica Savage (Global Sustainability, University of Warwick) observes that âRealism is essential in designing our future conservation goals. To achieve sustainable development, we must not only design achievable goals, but also goals that are inherently sustainable. “