Impacts of Marine Protected Areas on Fishing Communities
Marine protected areas (MPAs) are a popular conservation strategy, but their impacts on human welfare are poorly understood. To inform future research and policy decisions, we reviewed the scientific literature to assess MPA impacts on five indicators of human welfare: food security, resource rights, employment, community organization, and income. Following MPA establishment, food security generally remained stable or increased in older and smaller MPAs. The ability of most fishing groups to govern MPA resources changed. Increased resource rights were positively correlated with MPA zoning and compliance with MPA regulations. Small sample sizes precluded statistical tests of the impacts of MPAs on employment, community organization, and income. Our results demonstrate that MPAs shape the social well-being and political power of fishing communities; impacts (positive and negative) vary within and among social groups; and social impacts are correlated with some—but not all—commonly hypothesized explanatory factors. Accordingly, MPAs may represent a viable strategy for enhancing food security and empowering local communities, but current practices negatively affect at least a minority of fishers. To inform policy making, further research must better document and explain variation in the positive and negative social impacts of MPAs.