Assessing Marine Protected Areas Effectiveness: A Case Study with the Tobago Cays Marine Park Research Paper
Given the socio-economic consequences associated with declaring areas of ocean protected in order to achieve conservation objectives, this paper contributes to the growing global need to assess Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) as an effective management tool. It adds to the current body of knowledge on MPA effectiveness by conducting an evaluation of the Tobago Cays Marine Park (TCMP), located in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) in the eastern Caribbean, using a modified MPA effectiveness framework. Due to the limited information existing about the current performance of this MPA, this assessment also provides needed insight on the effect that the TCMP is having on the marine ecosystem, as well as its overall management performance. By comparing the performance of the MPA over a 10-year span (2007 and 2016), the results indicate that overall, the TCMP could be described as having limited success when key management categories of context, planning, input, process, output and outcomes are evaluated. In particular, efforts dedicated to planning, process and outcomes are assessed as deficient. Furthermore, the analysis revealed that efforts to realize the stated goals relating to conservation, public awareness and public education were being neglected. However, considerable effort was being expended by TCMP staff on achieving the remaining goal focusing on deriving economic benefits from touristic activities in the Park. Preliminary field research examining the effects of the TCMP on the abundance and density of an economically important species, Lobatus gigas, (commonly referred to as the queen conch) showed the TCMP as having no effect towards conch protection. The results and recommendations of this study, combined with continued monitoring of a recommended targeted suite of indicators, could contribute to better-informed adaptive MPA management, leading to progress towards the achievement of the stated goals for the TCMP.
Area of interest: St. Vincent