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Challenging the win-win discourse on conservation and development: analyzing support for marine protected areas

Tomas Chaigneau, Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter
Katrina Brown, Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter


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Conservation designations such as protected areas are increasing in numbers around the world, yet it is widely reported that many are failing to reach their objectives. They are frequently promoted as opportunities for win-win outcomes that can both protect biodiversity and lead to economic benefits for affected communities. This win-win view characterizes the dominant discourse surrounding many protected areas. Although this discourse and the arguments derived from it may lead to initial acceptance of conservation interventions, this study shows how it does not necessarily result in compliance and positive attitudes toward specific protected areas. Consequently, the discourse has important implications not just for making the case for protected area implementation, but also for the likelihood of protected areas reaching their objectives. We explain how the win-win discourse influences support for marine protected areas (MPAs) and, ultimately, their success. Using data from focus groups, questionnaires, and in-depth interviews at three MPA sites in the Philippines, we identified three reasons why the win-win discourse can negatively influence prolonged support for MPAs: dashed expectations, inequity, and temptation. Through an understanding of these issues, it becomes possible to suggest improvements that can be made pre-MPA implementation that can lead to prolonged support of MPAs. A focus on less tangible and economic MPA benefits, aligning MPA goals with cultural and social values, and higher levels of transparency when describing MPA outcomes are all ways in which prolonged support of MPAs can be bolstered.

Key words

attitudes; behavior; compliance; fisheries; natural resource management; Philippines

Copyright © 2016 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