Sustainability and effectiveness of a community-based marine protected area: a case study of the Villahermosa Marine Sanctuary in the Philippines
Lundsted, Justine A
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The Philippines has 7,641 islands, 22,549 miles of coastline, and a population of 103,425,838. Over half of this population lives along a coastline. The coastlines’ urbanization has resulted in the rapid degradation of the world’s center of marine biodiversity. With the loss of marine biodiversity comes the consequential loss of food supplies, livelihood, and protection from increasingly stronger typhoons. Effective and informed management decisions are critical to ensuring losses of marine resources are minimized and corrected, globally and locally. Community-based coastal resource management (CBCRM) has been promoted as a sustainable solution to the global crisis, and marine protected areas (MPA) have historically been CBCRM’s primary tool for fisheries conservation and ecosystem protection. This study evaluated the effectiveness and sustainability of a locally managed MPA in Tudela, Philippines using biophysical, socio-economic, and governance indicators. Indicators were measured using the MPA Management Effectiveness Assessment Tool (MEAT), Participatory Coastal Resource Assessments (PCRA), and community perception surveys. Indicators were assessed individually over the course of the MPA’s existence and combined to develop a needs, opportunities, improvements, strengths, and expectations (NOISE) analysis. The results of the individual and overall analyses revealed that active enforcement of the Villahermosa Marine Sanctuary was primarily responsible for perceived increased fish catch, management functionality, and MPA sustainability, and perceived decreased illegal fishing. Maintaining the MPA’s enforcement was key to significantly improving perceived MPA sustainability over time. This study concluded that long-term, visible enforcement was essential to the Villahermosa Marine Sanctuary’s perceived management effectiveness and positive community opinion.