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Pacific Canada’s Rockfish Conservation Areas: using Ostrom’s design principles to assess management effectiveness

Darienne Lancaster, School of Environmental Studies, University of Victoria
Dana R Haggarty, Biodiversity Research Centre, University of British Columbia
Natalie C Ban, School of Environmental Studies, University of Victoria


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International declines in marine biodiversity have lead to the creation of marine protected areas and fishery reserve systems. In Canada, 164 Rockfish Conservation Areas (RCAs) were implemented between 2003 and 2007 and now cover 4847.2 km² of ocean. These reserves were created in response to widespread concern from fishers and nongovernmental organizations about inshore rockfish (genus Sebastes) population declines. We used the design principles for effective common-pool resource management systems, originally developed by Elinor Ostrom, to assess the social and ecological effectiveness of these conservation areas more than 10 years after their initial implementation. We assessed the relative presence or absence of each design principle within current RCA management. We found that 2 of the 11 design principles were moderately present in the recreational fishery. All other design principles were lacking for the recreational sector. We found that 2 design principles were fully present and 5 were moderately present in the commercial sector. Four design principles were lacking in the commercial sector. Based on this analysis, we highlight 4 main areas for management improvement: (1) create an education and outreach campaign to explain RCA rules, regulations, boundaries, and the need for marine conservation; (2) increase monitoring of users and resources to discourage noncompliance and gather the necessary data to create social buy-in for marine conservation; (3) encourage informal nested governance through stakeholder organizations for education and self-regulation (e.g. fisher to fisher); and (4) most importantly, create a formal, decadal RCA review process to gather stakeholder input and make amendments to regulations and RCA boundaries. This information can be used to inform spatial management systems both in Canada and internationally. This analysis also contributes to a growing literature on effectively scaling up small-scale management techniques for large-scale, often federally run, common-pool resource systems.

Key words

design principles; management effectiveness; marine protected areas (MPAs); Rockfish Conservation Areas (RCAs)

Copyright © 2015 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087