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An analysis of marine protected areas legislation in the Caribbean Lesser Antilles

Historically, marine resources and ecosystems were believed to be limitless and exploitation of those resources occurred with little regard to future consequences. Recent studies suggests that this belief is misplaced, as research indicates that many of these marine resources face extinction if protective measures are not implemented soon. Marine protected areas, or MPAs have garnered increasing attention as a means to effectively protect and conserve marine resources. Establishment and management of marine protected areas typically require implementing legislation in order to provide a legal basis for enforcement of MPA rules and regulations. The intent of this research was to determine the link between MPA legislation and effective conservation of marine resources, using coral reef protection in the Caribbean as a case study. The first goal of this research was to determine which elements need to be included within MPA legislation, as determined by protected areas legislative experts and managers. The second phase of the thesis was to compare those guidelines against the legislation of three separate island groups within the Caribbean Lesser Antilles - Antigua and Barbuda, the Netherlands Antilles, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The results of the legislative analysis were then compared to the actual state of coral reefs controlled by the reviewed countries to establish whether effective MPA legislation results in better protection of coral reefs. The analysis revealed that effective legislation alone is not sufficient, nor determinative, of coral reef viability. However, the research does offer suggestions as to those components of the legislation that are deemed most crucial, such as self-financing, coverage area, and legislative authorization to control activities outside of MPA boundaries.

Area of Interest: Caribbean

Year: 2008

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