Governing Marine Protected Areas – Resilience through Diversity 

By  Peter J.S. Jones    Earthscan from Routledge    

This book does the rare thing of putting the social into the socio-ecology of protected areas and  provides valuable insights into natural resource management  in general.

You only need to look at the glowing cover endorsements from the likes of Pauly, Norse and Roberts to know that this book hits the mark. It’s excellent. It is clearly structured, includes several mines of information with numerous references and gets to the point about important lessons for the governance of MPAs. The book presents a closely argued, finely honed and coherent thesis from beginning to end and yet it in its succinct, and fully referenced discussion of individual topics. It provides an important reference source to many key and topical marine conservation issues.

The first four chapters – an introduction to Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) – the objectives and categories of MPAs – On values, priorities and differences between marine and terrestrial ecosystems – set the backdrop to the book. For anyone interested in marine conservation in general this is a systematic , clearly structured and well referenced review of many of the key topics and issues including points of contention between scientists.

People are the big challenge with marine conservation and environmental issues in general. The author elaborates the academic – sociological – backdrop to governance in chapter four. This chapter is a challenge but it is very important.  This is actually rather interesting as well  – but you need the acronym checklist alongside – because it sets out the academic debate and issues surrounding ideas like top down and bottom up approaches, co-management and social-ecological resilience. Anyone who has been involved in any participation or partnership work will find this an insightful and an incredibly useful chapter; it should be compulsory reading for anyone working with people on environmental issues. It’s power is generic and I found myself thinking about the catchment based approach where the debate about  top down – bottom up approaches are  currently playing out.

The next three chapters – an empirical framework for analysing MPA Governance approaches – overview of case studies and incentives for effectiveness – describe the outcomes of a major research project based on twenty MPA case studies from around the world. The framework for this analysis and major research programme again provides a powerful generic framework including 36 incentives in five sets – economic, interpretative, knowledge, legal and participative. This is a very valuable listing for people structuring  new assessments. The governance categories include: government lead, decentralised, community lead, private and no clearly recognisable governance framework. The relative economic status, level of development and style of government in different countries clearly plays a large part in the mechanisms deployed – and the understanding needed by practitioners working in these settings.

Chapter seven elaborates each of the 36 incentives with reference to case studies and the literature providing a wealth of pointers to current debates and what works and what doesn’t. One of the strengths of the whole of this book, but it struck me in chapter 7, is how the individual topics covered are highly pertinent to many areas of natural resource management both on land and the marine environment. Again the systematic structure of the book again shines through and provides a very strong steer into how to make MPAs, and marine conservation, work in practice. We have exponential growth in reports and publications on the marine ecology of MPAs but why  chapter seven is so outstanding and helpful is because that it provides a clear structure, and description of the richness of the social responses  to MPAs which needs to be understood in approaching marine conservation and many other environmental issues.

This is a very significant book providing clarity of structure, evidence and insight into the neglected area of social science and marine protected areas. This insight has a value way beyond MPAs, to marine conservation and environmental issues in general. The author in the final sentence highlights the value of not just diversity in ecology but also diversity in societal incentives that will provide the key to resilience.

I can thoroughly recommend it and as Elliott Norse says in his endorsement,  ‘Read this Book’.

A Review by Bob Earll, CMS August 2014

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