Marine Protected Areas: Levering Barriers to Strong Protection Implementation

Marieke Schultz

Marine protected areas (MPAs) have the potential to bring about ecological, economic, and social sustainability in the ocean. However, the recent rapid expansion of MPA coverage to meet international targets is done at the expense of ecologically efficient MPAs, with strong levels of protection lagging behind not sufficiently protected MPAs. Here, we identified the barriers and levers to strong protection in comparison to moderate protection using France as a case study. Based on a survey of MPA experts, we found that conflicting stakeholder’s perceptions and altered interaction between stakeholders and decision-makers impede the movement from ambition to implementation of strong protection as opposed to lower levels of protection. We suggest a two-tiered action plan to address barriers in the way to strong protection, acting both at deep and shallow leverage points. Enhancing participation, making decision-makers accountable for their commitments, while mobilising financial capital and simplifying governance will facilitate decision-making to implement efficient conservation measures.