Capacity shortfalls hinder the performance of marine protected areas globally


Marine protected areas (MPAs) are increasingly being used globally to conserve marine resources. However, whether many MPAs are being effectively and equitably managed, and how MPA management influences substantive outcomes remain unknown. We developed a global database of management and fish population data (433 and 218 MPAs, respectively) to assess: MPA management processes; the effects of MPAs on fish populations; and relationships between management processes and ecological effects. Here we report that many MPAs failed to meet thresholds for effective and equitable management processes, with widespread shortfalls in staff and financial resources. Although 71% of MPAs positively influenced fish populations, these conservation impacts were highly variable. Staff and budget capacity were the strongest predictors of conservation impact: MPAs with adequate staff capacity had ecological effects 2.9 times greater than MPAs with inadequate capacity. Thus, continued global expansion of MPAs without adequate investment in human and financial capacity is likely to lead to sub-optimal conservation outcomes.

Publication Type
Journal Article
Michael B. Mascia
Gabby N. Ahmadia
Louise Glew, WWF
Sarah E. Lester
Megan Barnes, University of Hawaii
Ian Craigie, James Cook University
Emily S. Darling
Christopher M. Free
Jonas Geldmann, University of Copenhagen
Susie Holst, NOAA
Olaf P. Jensen
Alan T. White
Xavier Basurto, Duke University
Lauren Coad
Ruth D. Gates
Greg Guannel
Peter J. Mumby
Hannah Thomas, World Conservation Monitoring Centre
Sarah Whitmee, University College London
Stephen Woodley, International Union for Conservation of Nature
Helen E. Fox