Great efforts have been made both at European and Italian level to increase the number of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). MPAs have become more than simply a tool to improve marine conservation. Management agency are actively involved in the sustainable development of nearby communities through the promotion of recreational activities. But, even if recreational uses are generally considered benign, they can potentially be highly detrimental for species and their habitats.

This study estimated boating usage and the level of compliance inside the Capo Gallo and Isola delle Femmine MPAs (Italy). The spatial and temporal trend of boating and the behaviours of boaters were measured through direct observation over a period of two summer months.

According to the authors the results of the study highlight a weakness in the effectiveness of this MPA, linked to a social component and compliance with the regulation. In relation to this, the authors underline the need to concentrate the available resources on the governance, management, enforcing regulations and increasing surveillance within the existing Italian MPAs, rather than decreeing new parks with a high risk of becoming “paper parks”.

The authors clarify the most critical aspects relating to the social context of this MPA and identify guidelines for onward management planning.

La Manna G. & Sarà G. (2019) A false sense of protection: recreational uses and illegal behaviour in a Mediterranean Marine Protected Area and implications for management. Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management.