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Involving stakeholders in MPAs

Involving stakeholders for efficient MPAs is crucial. One of the workshops held on Tuesday, Oct. 22, devoted an entire day to explore the question with over 15 speakers that presented examples from around the world.

Chaired by Laurent Sourbès, Director of Zakynthos Marine National Park in Greece and vice president of MedPAN, the network of MPA managers in the Mediterranean, as well as by Charlotte Karibuhoye of the Fondation Internationale du Banc d’Arguin in West Africa, the workshop fostered dynamic and passionate exchanges.

Dialogue with stakeholders is fundamental during the planning phase of an MPA but also once the MPA is established and operational. The participatory process takes time and this engagement should never be taken for granted. All stakeholders (local, institutional, NGOs, academic and research sector, private companies…) need to be identified from the beginning, whether they belong to the local community (from the most to the least audible) or not. MPAs, once they are effective and well established, tend to become magnets, e.g. more fish draw more fishermen from the outside and pristine environments stir up the interest of foreign tour operators, thus bringing more pressure and conflicts that have to be addressed through more stakeholder involvement.

The objectives of every MPA need to be clearly stated and kept at the forefront of discussions. Consensus is not always reached. Science needs to be translated into messages that can be understood by stakeholders at all levels, and if possible linked and integrated with local cultures and traditional know-how. Simple tools that can ensure the participation of stakeholders in the long-term objectives of the MPA, from public awareness to training, have proved to be very efficient to foster voluntary surveillance and monitoring engagement from local professionals and young people. Complementary tools include certification and award giving as well as the implementation of charters of good practices.

There are different models of stakeholder engagement and participation for MPA governance around the world. For example, successful community-based management models share the responsibility of MPA management among local communities. In any case, active support of local initiatives by the governments is called for to reinforce social cohesion and ensure a legitimacy and credibility of their actions in the long term.

MPAs around the world share many similarities and yet have different governance models; as such, networking and experience-sharing is an important tool to reinforce and develop, through new initiatives and innovative processes, a more effective engagement of stakeholders.

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