Exploring Marine Protected Areas: A baseline governance assessment of the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve
Pirie, Robyn E
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Governance is a key component of sustainable ocean management and utilizes stakeholder collaboration to build resilient conservation and management schemes. Marine protected areas are governed from a top-down, bottom-up, market-based or cooperative approach, all of which involve a variety of actors. The ability of a reserve to meet its objectives, particularly those focused on conservation, depend heavily on the ability of stakeholder groups to communicate effectively and work cohesively to protect and promote the mandates of a reserve. The diverse nature of marine protected areas and their management schemes can make it difficult to determine and develop methods for assessing the success of a reserve in meeting its objectives. The purpose of this case study was to create a baseline governance assessment of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, located in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. The analysis will begin to determine how well the reserve is meeting its conservation objectives from a governance perspective. The focus is placed on investigating the five variables of governance outlined by Jones et al. (2011) in the Marine Protected Area Governance (MPAG) framework. These five variables include: legal, economic, knowledge (role of science), interpretative, and participative incentives. An in-depth desktop analysis of peer-reviewed and gray literature was conducted alongside informal stakeholder communication to determine how well the Sian Ka’an Reserve is meeting its conservation objectives. The analysis identified areas where the Sian Ka’an Reserve had excelled; it has also uncovered deficiencies in the application of good governance, e.g. the lack of a comprehensive legal framework. The discovery of these shortfalls and successes aims to improve governance in the Sian Ka’an Reserve and to identify transferable lessons for other MPAs. Overall, the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve has had moderate success in meeting its conservation objectives.