UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

The de facto protection of Marine Protected Areas Relaño Écija, Verónica


Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are the most common tool used to conserve marine resources. Officially, 8% of the world’s ocean are protected by MPAs. However, due to inadequate implementation, MPAs often fail to achieve the desired outcomes, causing vital ecosystem services to be jeopardized. Currently, there is no clear understanding of how much of our oceans is de facto protected. This thesis fills this gap through a global assessment of MPAs' status by providing insights into the different types of existing MPAs. The first chapter of this thesis emphasizes these points. The second chapter compares the evolution of fisheries in four territories in the Pacific, using comprehensive catch data from 1950 to 2018, and shows that Exclusive Economic Zones are viable tools for coastal countries to manage fisheries. It also shows that MPA designation may fall victim to political convenience, resulting in so-called ‘paper parks.’ The third chapter identifies areas of the Pacific that are important for conservation by superposing the migration routes of 11 large pelagic fish species and presents possible ‘blue corridors’ to protect those fish stocks. To understand the protection level or status of MPAs, a ‘one-question questionnaire’ was sent to over 3,000 academics, NGO staff, fishers, journalists and civil servants with a relationship to MPAs in their country. This represented an affordable and replicable methodology to assemble local knowledge about MPAs and to perform comparative analyses of the stakeholders’ answers. The returns from this questionnaire are analyzed in the fourth and fifth chapters, with the former emphasizing the range of answers and the latter the type of answers, by stakeholder occupation. The sixth chapter summarizes the arguments of the previous chapters and illustrates their application through an exemplary documentary film produced by the candidate. The film is a case study of a ‘paper park’ in Argentina and highlights the role of science communication in creating community support for greater marine protection in their area. Overall, this thesis advances our understanding of the de facto protection status of MPAs around the world and provides a basis for increasing their effectiveness.

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International