Managers of marine protected areas (MPAs) are constantly challenged to encourage positive user behaviour to minimise impacts on marine ecosystems while allowing recreational use. Yet, some marine users continue to act in ways that diminish conservation values of the area.

This study presents a case for informed behaviour change strategies to reduce problem behaviours in MPAs and contribute to conservation efforts. Social psychological drivers of behaviour are explained and applied to an MPA context to demonstrate how they can inform strategies for predicting and changing behaviour using persuasive communication.

The work presents a conceptual model and a decision flowchart. The authors state that the model can be used as a starting point for investigating why a particular problem behaviour is currently occurring, when and where it is occurring, and precisely which users are responsible. Once there is some clarity in terms of which precise problem behaviours managers need to tackle, the decision flowchart can be used to address each specific target behaviour. The conceptual model and the decision flowchart together provide conceptual clarity and decision-making tools that can underpin the use of theory-driven research on MPA user behaviours.

However, the authors highlight that there are still large knowledge gaps regarding how to encourage pro-environmental behaviours generally, but especially in MPAs.

Martin VY, Weiler B, Reis A, Dimmock K, Scherrer P (2017) ‘Doing the right thing’: How social science can help foster pro-environmental behaviour change in marine protected areas. Marine Policy 81:236-246

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