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Rule breaking and livelihood options in marine protected areas
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Professor Selina Stead
Peterson AM, Stead SM
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Two main drivers of global trends in noncompliance of marine protected areas regulations are food and income security. Declines in fish stocks have resulted in greater concerns for food security, especially in developing and coastal areas, and calls for environmental conservation are growing. Planning of marine protected areas has traditionally been based on biological and ecological data, only recently focusing on the human communities that are significantly dependent on coastal resources. The hypothesis that marine resource use is determined by socioeconomic factors (such as food security and income) and livelihood options was tested in two communities on the island of Rodrigues (Western Indian Ocean). As livelihood development can be a response to fisher displacement by protected areas, willingness towards alternative livelihood options and the differences in this between fisher demographic groups were also examined. Using semi-structured interviews, 72 fishers were surveyed on topics such as fishery and marine protected area (MPA) regulation noncompliance, current livelihoods and willingness to consider alternative livelihoods. Fishers believed Rodrigues fisheries suffer from high levels of noncompliance, owing mainly to a lack of livelihood alternatives and depleted stocks. Rodriguan fishers had low mobility, both within the fishery (for example gear types used and target species) and in movement to occupations outside the fishery. The fishers were generally willing to consider alternate livelihoods. Age was significantly correlated with overall willingness to consider alternative work, while gender and village were found to have a significant relationship with types of work that an individual was willing to consider. Policy makers and marine resource managers need to identify drivers of noncompliant behaviour and examine livelihood preferences at different scales (individual, within and between communities) prior to users being affected by MPA created displacement to more effectively address marine conservation and food security goals. The findings offer new empirical evidence to strengthen support for arguments that could be made by policy makers to demand more balanced consideration of the effects of MPAs on socioeconomic factors along with environmental considerations in communities highly dependent on access to the marine areas that will be affected by MPAs.
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