Governance of marine protected areas in the least-developed countries

FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Technical Paper No. 548

Governance of marine protected areas
in the least-developed countries

Case studies from West Africa


Jean-Yves Weigel Economist
IRD Research Director

François Féral
Professor of Public Law
CERTAP, University of Perpignan


Bertrand Cazalet
Legal expert
CERTAP, University of Perpignan

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Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Rome 2011


Weigel, J.Y.; Féral, F. & Cazalet, B., eds.
Governance of marine protected areas in least-developed countries. Case studies from West Africa.. FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Technical Paper No. 548. Rome, FAO. 2011. 78 pp.

The need for effective governance of the marine protected areas (MPAs) in leastdeveloped countries (LDCs) is commensurate with the significant territorial stakes raised by their extensive maritime domain. Another significant challenge is the conservation of biodiversity and of ecosystems whose level of productivity is similar to that of coral reefs (e.g. in East Africa and Madagascar, the Red Sea, Maldives, Cambodia, and South Pacific islands), upwelling systems (e.g. in West Africa and Angola) and estuarine and delta ecosystems (e.g. in West and East Africa, Bangladesh and Myanmar). However, the overriding issue is to reconcile conservation and human presence as, in LDCs, human activities are tolerated in almost all MPAs covered by International Union for Conservation of Nature categories II–VI. Finally, issues related to identity claims and to the process of establishment of property and other legal entitlements on nature are gaining importance.

A review of the literature on fisheries and MPAs governance showed how polysemous and vague the notion of governance was until very recently and how few or oversimplified were the analyses of MPA governance in the LDCs. However, only detailed analyses would allow the characterization of governance systems and identification of their weaknesses with the view to suggesting new governance arrangements and appropriate public policy options. Such analytical deficiencies may be explained by the lack of analytical frameworks capable of taking into account the plurality and intricacy of socio-economic organizations and institutions, the sociocultural features and the role of new mediators and “development brokers” that shape MPA governance in the LDCs. The deficiencies may also be explained by the fact that the dominating hierarchical governance systems tend to underestimate the complexity of MPA governance systems.

Therefore, it has been necessary to develop an analytical framework to study the governance of MPAs in the LDCs, drawing on four sources of inspiration: (i) the interactive fisheries governance approach; (ii) the risk governance approach; (iii) the socioanthropology of mediations and brokerage; and (iv) the governance analytical framework. The framework indicates the five issues that must be addressed in order to operationalize the concept of governance in LDC MPAs: (i) definition of the problem or the issue at stake; (ii) identification of the set of relevant governance norms; (iii) presentation of the actors involved in the governance process; (iv) highlighting the nodes around which actors’ strategies converge; and (v) recalling the processes that have led to the current state of governance. This analytical framework makes it possible to characterize the governance system of each of the MPAs considered and to develop a typology of these systems. The characterization of different governance systems highlights their weaknesses and paves the way for new public policy options and, more generally, for the restructuring of governance to correct these weaknesses.

However, prior to the development of the analytical framework and the characterization of governance systems, the main MPA governance principles and constraints, as well their legal context, must be clarified. The whole methodology was tested on three West African coastal and marine protected areas, which seemed to provide textbook cases illustrating the difficulties of governance in LDCs: the Banc d’Arguin National Park in Mauritania, the Saloum Delta Biosphere Reserve in Senegal, and the Bolama Bijagos Archipelago Biosphere Reserve in Guinea- Bissau. The analysis of demographic and economic constraints in these West African MPAs showed the importance of: (i) increasing population density and mobility; (ii) the intensification of resource exploitation; and (iii) and the opening of the MPA economy. The analysis of the legal and institutional contexts showed the international inspiration of the MPA objectives and conservation arrangements, and the syncretism of the legal system.

Table of Contents

Preparation of this document
Maps and boxes
Abbreviations and acronyms
List of authors

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1. Introduction
2. Marine protected area governance issues in the least-developed countries
3. Demographic and economic constraints on MPA governance in LDCs
4. The legal context of governance of marine protected areas in the least-developed countries: a syncretic legal system
5. Governance systems of marine protected areas in least-developed countries: analytical framework, characterization and weaknesses
6. The reconfiguration of MPA governance and public policies
7. Conclusion

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