Avoiding and reversing "paper parks": integrating fishers' compliance into marine conservation efforts

Arias, Adrian (2016) Avoiding and reversing "paper parks": integrating fishers' compliance into marine conservation efforts. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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Nature conservation is fundamentally about managing people. Consequently, the effectiveness of conservation interventions depends largely on people's compliance with regulations. However, noncompliance with environmental regulations is common, as illustrated by the following examples. In the worldwide timber trade, roughly 20% to 50% of all timber is of illegal origin (INTERPOL & The World Bank, 2010). Meanwhile, in the world's industrial fisheries, estimates of nearly 20% of reported catch being illegal are probably conservative (Agnew et al., 2009). Poaching has militarized the struggle between poachers and rangers (Kalron, 2013; Stiles, 2013) with deadly consequences: more than half of the world's ranger deaths can be attributed to poachers (IUCN, 2014). Financially, illegal wildlife trade, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and illegal timber trade are amongst the largest illicit activities in the world (Haken, 2011). Noncompliance with environmental regulations is a critical problem to address because it threatens not only the environment, but also social and economic prosperity.

In this thesis I investigate compliance through the lens of fishers' compliance, particularly with marine protected areas (MPAs). MPAs are widely used tools for marine conservation and fisheries management (Lester & Halpern, 2008). Studies show that compliance can be a strong predictor of fish biomass within MPAs (Ayling & Choat, 2008; Cudney- Bueno & Basurto, 2009; Guidetti et al., 2008). Hence, fishers' compliance is critical for MPA effectiveness. However, although there is a growing interest on the topic, there currently few empirical studies looking into fishers' compliance with MPAs. Without such information, conservation practitioners1 have limited opportunities to provide effective interventions. Through a series of studies, mostly in Costa Rica, I contribute theoretical and practical advances in the field of compliance with nature conservation rules.

The overarching research questions of my thesis are: (1) How can we better understand fishers' compliance with MPAs? and (2) How can we better manage fishers' compliance with MPAs? As it will become apparent throughout my thesis, both questions could apply to other contexts, including terrestrial conservation. This thesis is composed of six core chapters, each with specific research questions or purposes (Table 1). My interest in the field of compliance led me to approach the research questions through multiple contexts and scales: from nature conservation in general (Chapter 2), coastal MPAs and artisanal fisheries (Chapters 4 and 6), offshore MPAs and longline fishing (Chapter 5), and industrial tuna fishing (Chapter 7). Throughout my PhD I have endeavoured to make my work relevant and useful for practitioners while maintaining scientific rigour and novelty. Below I describe the core chapters of this thesis.

In Chapter 2 I review and integrate key concepts and tools about compliance from different fields in an effort to guide compliance management in the conservation context. First, I address the understanding of compliance by breaking it down into five key questions: who?, what?, when?, where?, and why? A special focus is given to 'why?' because understanding the reasons for compliance (and noncompliance) is critical for designing management interventions. Second, I review compliance management strategies, from voluntary compliance to coerced compliance. Finally, I suggest a system, adapted from research on tax compliance, to balance these multiple compliance management strategies. I provide a broad yet practical perspective on theory and tools for understanding and managing compliance in the nature conservation context.

In Chapter 3 I condense relevant information about Costa Rica. I provide an overview of conservation and marine protected areas in Costa Rica with the objective of giving the reader contextual information to better understand the subsequent chapters. Costa Rica has been renowned for its rich biodiversity and for being a leader in nature conservation. Even though this might be true to some extent, here I argue that the country is currently lacking the strong leadership that it had decades ago, and that the marine realm in particular is in urgent need of attention. Costa Rica's marine area is almost 11 times larger than its land area, and marine resources and services are critical for the country's development and well-being. Nevertheless, the lack of policies and actions aimed at marine conservation is now evidenced by factors such as overfishing, poorly planned conservation initiatives, a neglected nautical sector, conflict between stakeholders, and as discussed in the following chapters, illegal fishing. I anticipate, however, that the perilous state of marine affairs has created a new wave of interest in Costa Ricans for marine conservation that will lead to positive changes, resembling the similar cycle experienced in the country during the 1970s and 1980s with rampant deforestation followed by energetic terrestrial conservation.

In Chapter 4 I look at enforcement in MPAs. Enforcement, although not the only tool for managing compliance, is common and usually necessary to ensure compliance. Enforcement, however, is expensive and must be optimized. In this Chapter I present a case study of how enforcement could be optimized in Cocos Island National Park, an offshore MPA and World Heritage Site. By analysing several years of patrol records I determined the spatial and temporal distribution of illegal fishing, and its relationship to patrol effort. Illegal fishing was concentrated on a seamount within the Park and peaked during the third year-quarter, probably as a result of oceanographic conditions. The lunar cycle in conjunction with the time of year significantly influenced the occurrence of incursions. The predictability of illegal fishing in space and time facilitates the optimization of patrol effort. Repeat offenders are common in the Park and I suggest that unenforced regulations and weak governance are partly to blame. I provide recommendations for efficient distribution of patrol effort in space and time, establishing adequate governance and policy, and designing marine protected areas to improve compliance. My methods and recommendations from this Chapter could be applicable to other protected areas and managed natural resources.

In Chapter 5 I study strategies that illegal fishers use to avoid being detected by authorities, and I provide countermeasures that managers can use against these strategies. Detection-avoidance strategies are common in the context of nature conservation, yet they remain largely unstudied and are scarcely addressed in the peer-reviewed literature. Even though enforcement can be greatly improved (as discussed in Chapter 5), patrol effectiveness also depends on knowing and countering detection-avoidance strategies. First, I discuss detection-avoidance strategies in the nature conservation context. Second, by drawing on evidence collected in Costa Rica, I describe a series of detection-avoidance strategies used by small-scale fishers. And third, I provide countermeasures that can help prevent or neutralize these strategies.

Chapter 6 is a short account of how existing fisheries information collected by Regional Fisheries Management Organizations and coastal states can be used to expose illegal fishing. Here I draw on a little-known report, published in Spanish in Costa Rica, which reveals potential cases of illegal fishing from foreign tuna purse seiners. The cases, still pending action on behalf of the authorities, involve fishing without a licence, and the illegal use of fish aggregating devices. I discuss the broader implications of these cases, and suggest recommendations that could be adopted by Regional Fisheries Management Organizations and coastal states.

In Chapter 7 I explore the levels and drivers of fishers' compliance with MPAs. By studying 12 coastal MPAs in Costa Rica, I investigate the roles of different variables in influencing fishers' compliance with MPAs. Particularly, I found that compliance levels perceived by resource users were higher in MPAs: (1) with multiple livelihoods, (2) where government efforts against illegal fishing were perceived to be effective, (3) where fishing was allowed but regulated, (4) where people were more involved in decisions, and (5) that were smaller. I also provide a novel and practical measure of compliance: a compound variable formed by the number of illegal fishers and their illegal fishing effort. This study underlines the centrality of people's behaviour in nature conservation, and the importance of grounding decision-making on the social and institutional realities of each location.

Overall, my thesis features the relevance of integrating compliance management into conservation interventions. Without compliance, conservation fails. Conservation interventions such as MPAs can be effective. However, many of them are failing (Jones et al., 2011; Mora et al., 2006), and the growing interest in creating more MPAs calls for a critical evaluation of planning and management strategies, giving special consideration to compliance. My thesis builds on previous work, offering new concepts, methods and results that can contribute to enhanced nature conservation through better compliance management.

Item ID: 47319
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: behaviour; Cocos Island; compliance; conservation; Costa Rica; enforcement; environmental auditing; fishers’ attitudes; illegal fishing; illegal resource use; IUU fishing; livelihoods; longlining; lunar phase; marine conservation; marine protected areas; marine reserve; natural resource management; patrol; poaching; poverty; responsible fishing
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Additional Information:

Publications arising from this thesis are available from the Related URLs field. The publications are:

Chapter 2: Arias, Adrian (2015) Understanding and managing compliance in the nature conservation context. Journal of Environmental Management, 135. pp. 134-143.

Chapter 3: Salas, Eva, Ross-Salazar, Erick, and Arias, Adrian (2012) Diagnosis of marine protected areas and responsible fishing areas in the Costa Rican Pacific [Translated Title]. Fundación MarViva, San José, Costa Rica.

Chapter 4: Arias, Adrian, Pressey, Robert L., Jones, Rhondda E., Alvarez-Romero, Jorge G., and Cinner, Joshua E. (2016) Optimizing enforcement and compliance in offshore marine protected areas: a case study from Cocos Island, Costa Rica. Oryx, 50 (1). pp. 18-26.

Chapter 6: Arias, Adrian, and Pressey, Robert L. (2016) Combatting illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing with information: a case of probable illegal fishing in the Tropical Eastern Pacific. Frontiers in Marine Science, 3. pp. 1-4.

Chapter 7: Arias, Adrian, Cinner, Joshua E., Jones, Rhondda E., and Pressey, Robert L. (2015) Levels and drivers of fishers' compliance with marine protected areas. Ecology and Society, 20 (4). pp. 1-14.

Date Deposited: 16 Feb 2017 03:55
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050209 Natural Resource Management @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9609 Land and Water Management > 960999 Land and Water Management of Environments not elsewhere classified @ 100%
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