Poaching renders many of the world’s marine protected areas ineffective. Because enforcement capacity is often limited, managers are attempting to bolster compliance by engaging the latent surveillance potential to fishers. However, little is known about how fishers respond when they witness poaching.

This study surveyed 2,111 fishers living adjacent to 55 marine protected areas in 7 countries and found that 48% had previously observed poaching.

The authors found that the most common response was inaction, with the primary reasons being: 1. conflict avoidance, 2. a sense that it was not their responsibility or jurisdiction, and 3. the perception that poaching was a survival strategy.

The study quantified as well how institutional design elements or conditions were related to how fishers responded to poaching, and highlight ways in which fishers can be engaged while mitigating risks, including emphasizing how poaching personally affects each fisher, promoting stewardship and norms of personal responsibility and poverty alleviation to reduce the need for fishers to poach for survival.


Bergseth BJ, Gurney GG, Barnes ML, Arias A, Cinner J (2018) Addressing poaching in marine protected areas through voluntary surveillance and enforcement. Nature Sustainability 1:421-426.