Marine protected areas (MPAs) are vital to marine conservation, but their coverage and distribution is insufficient to address declines in global biodiversity and fisheries. In response, many countries have committed to the Aichi Target 11 of the Convention of Biological Diversity. The rush to fulfil this commitment has raised concerns on how efforts to increase MPA coverage will affect other elements of Target 11, including representation and equity.

This study compared three MPA planning approaches for biodiversity representation and equitable distribution of costs to small scale fisheries. In the “opportunistic approach” MPAs were identified and supported by coastal communities. The “donor-assisted approach” used local knowledge to select MPAs through a national-scale and donor-assisted conservation project. And the “systematic conservation planning approach” identified MPA locations through the spatial prioritization software “Marxan with Zones” to achieve biodiversity objectives with minimal and equitable costs to fishers.

The obtained results showed that the opportunistic approach was ineffective at representing biodiversity and resulted in inequitable costs to fishers. MPAs selected though the donor-assisted approach affected fishers disproportionately but provided near-optimal representation of a study region extent. While, with approximately the same MPA coverage, the systematic approach was the only approach that achieved all representation targets with minimal and equitable costs to fishers.

The authors conclude that the results of the study demonstrate the utility of systematic conservation planning to address key elements of Target 11 and highlight opportunities and pitfalls for planning MPAs.

Kockel et al. (2019) Evaluating approaches for scaling up community-based marine protected areas into socially equitable and ecologically representative networks. Conservation Biology doi:10.1111/cobi.13368.