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Scientists find community involvement, not only enforcement, drives success of marine reserves
Date:3/1/2010

KINGSTON, R.I. March 1, 2010 In one of the most comprehensive global studies of marine reserves, a team of natural and social scientists from the University of Rhode Island and other institutions has found that community involvement is among the most important factors driving the success of marine reserves.

"We make a big mistake thinking that a marine reserve is just about coral, fish and other aquatic organisms," said Richard Pollnac, URI professor of anthropology and marine affairs, who led the study. "They are also composed of the people who can make them succeed or fail and who are either helped or hurt by them."

The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on February 22.

The researchers studied 127 marine protected areas in the Caribbean, Western Indian Ocean and the Philippines to identify the key factors that determine the success of marine reserves, which protect the marine environment by prohibiting fishing. Biological assessments were conducted at 56 of the reserves to determine their ecological health, while surveys of residents and community leaders in local communities discerned perceptions and opinions in all 127 reserves.

Among their results, the researchers found that the reserves where residents said they complied with the rules were more effective at protecting fish stocks than those where the rules were often ignored. They noted, however, that compliance with reserve rules occurred not only due to surveillance and enforcement but also due to complex social interactions among community members and opinion leaders.

"The most successful reserves were those where the people said that most of the community follows the rules," explained Graham Forrester, URI associate professor of natural resources science and a co-author of the study. "Compliance with the rules is a measure of how a community feels about the reserve. It's their choice to follow the
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Contact: Todd McLeish
tmcleish@uri.edu
401-874-7892
University of Rhode Island
Source:Eurekalert

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