Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are effective resource management and conservation measures, but their success is often hindered by non-compliant activities such as poaching. Understanding the risk factors and spatial patterns of poaching is therefore crucial for efficient law enforcement.

This study conducted explanatory and predictive modelling of poaching from recreational fishers within no-take zones of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Modelling the occurrence probability of poaching incidents and mapping poaching risk was undertaken combining patrol effort data, observed distribution of reported incidents, and spatially-explicit environmental and human risk factors.

The results; 1) show that fishing attractiveness, accessibility and fishing capacity play a major role in shaping the spatial patterns of poaching; 2) revealed key interactions among these factors as  well as tipping points beyond which poaching risk increased or decreased markedly; and 3) highlight gaps in patrol effort that could be filled for improved resource allocation.

The authors conclude that beyond the immediate compliance optimization benefits, this approach offers managers the opportunity to consider poaching risk along with other relevant elements such as additional ecosystem threats, resilience potential and sociocultural and economic values which, together, will enhance managers’ capacity to implement strategic resilience-based management.

Thiault et al. (2019) Predicting poaching risk in marine protected areas for improved patrol efficiency. Journal of Environmental Management 254: 109808.