Implement Effective Management
Establishing a new protected area is cause for celebration. It almost always involves years of consultation, science, government process, overcoming unexpected obstacles, and determined collaboration. However, it is crucial to recognize that this joyous occasion is just the beginning of the conservation work for all involved. Indeed, conservation history is full of “paper parks” legally declared and proudly added to maps and international lists without meaningful management or enforcement for the resources “protected” within.
The best time to start planning for the management and enforcement of a new marine protected area is as early as possible and definitely before it is established. Management and enforcement considerations can influence important design decisions on boundaries, access, allowable uses, staffing, and more. Minority opinions matter and even the most popular conservation area will need to deal with opposition constructively. Experience shows that it is really helpful to hire staff and engage volunteers from the affected communitiesto educate resource users about the importance of any changes in the protected area and to enforce the new rules over time.
A simple start-up management plan, created as part of the designation process, can bring all the key partners together to develop a clearer agreement about the future. Ideally, it should capture baseline information on marine resources and threats, identify initial management actions, outline preliminary rules and regulations for users, and estimate budget and staffing needed for the first one to two years. Other issues important to consider include potential new threats (site-based and global), impacts of social and political change, and project funding (start-up to long-term). There are different planning tools available through the Open Standards to guide a new team through this process.