What counts in making MPAs count: The role of legitimacy as a contributor to perceived MPA success in Canada. [graduate project].
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Marine protected areas (MPAs) are powerful management tools used worldwide for conserving marine species and habitats. Yet, many MPAs fail to achieve their management objectives because of shortfalls in understanding stakeholders’ perceptions on the level of legitimacy they afford to an MPA, which can negatively impact an MPA’s effectiveness. The purpose of this study was to determine the importance of various factors in shaping different stakeholders’ and managers’ perceptions on MPA effectiveness and the level of legitimacy they afford to an MPA. Interviews were conducted with various stakeholders from two coastal MPAs in Atlantic Canada: Musquash MPA in New Brunswick, and Basin Head MPA in Prince Edward Island. Results indicated that most factors for legitimacy are important to stakeholders for MPA effectiveness, however some differences in perceptions were evident between and within different stakeholder groups, and among stakeholders and managers. Consensus was shared across case studies on the importance of community leadership and the establishment of trust. A novel legitimacy framework, as well as a more refined suite of indicators vetted by stakeholders for obtaining MPA legitimacy are presented and recommended for use by MPA managers in establishing/assessing the legitimacy of Canada’s future coastal MPAs. The results of this research allow for an increased understanding of stakeholder perceptions of legitimacy and help to simplify the task Canadian MPA managers have of establishing legitimate and ultimately effective MPAs during their efforts to reach Canada’s national targets of having covering 10% of national oceans in MPAs by 2020.