The Human Dimensions of Large-Scale Marine Protected Areas November 2017
The Human Dimensions of Large-Scale Marine Protected Areas
Map of project case study sites: Northern Mariana Islands and Guam, Palau, Kiribati, Rapa Nui (Easter Island) and Bermuda
Credit: Map by Marie Puddister for the Human Dimensions of Large Marine Protected Areas project
The Human Dimensions of Large-Scale Marine Protected Areas
The Palau National Marine Sanctuary Act seeks to reduce fishing pressure on inshore reefs through the development of an offshore domestic fishing zone
Photo Credit: Rebecca Gruby

Marine protected areas (MPAs), akin to national parks on land, are one of the best tools available to protect the ocean and the wildlife that calls it home. Studies show that when MPAs are established, marine life flourishes. MPAs maintain healthy fish populations, protect coastal habitats from damage, safeguard biodiversity and build ecosystem resilience against climate change. Research has shown that the bigger the MPA’s size, the better it is at delivering these benefits.

Large-scale marine protected areas (LMPAs)—MPAs greater than 100,000 km²—now represent over half of the world’s protected ocean area. LMPAs operate on a bigger scale than typical coastal MPAs and are often located in remote, open ocean areas. They are different from smaller MPAs and, as such, they are managed differently. Decades of research on smaller MPAs have shown that social factors play an important role in MPAs’ long-term environmental success. However, similar research on LMPAs has been lacking. With the continued growth of this conservation tool, it is necessary to understand all the factors that influence LMPAs’ success in helping the ocean thrive.

To help address this research gap, The Tiffany & Co. Foundation joined with the Oak Foundation, Waitt Foundation and Lyda Hill to support a three-year social science study on the human dimensions of LMPAs. The research took place at five different locations where LMPAs were already established or were being considered. The goal of the research was to examine the social, political and economic drivers of successful ocean protection in order to inform LMPA policy and practice.

The team’s findings are being shared widely with researchers, policymakers and others in the hopes of inspiring more studies and informing the way LMPAs are managed. By supporting this emerging field of research, The Tiffany & Co. Foundation hopes that LMPAs can be employed most effectively toward the long-term preservation of these priceless marine ecosystems and for the benefit of communities worldwide.

Learn more about the results of this research by visiting the project’s website.