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Although much research has been done on the ecological benefits and challenges of marine resource management, comparatively little insight has been gained into the benefits and challenges of the human well-being aspects. This document addresses this gap by building on existing knowledge and synthesizing over 20 social science studies conducted over the past five years in 19 countries, involving over 35 scientists, and drawing on experiences in 52 marine managed areas (MMAs) worldwide.

This booklet demonstrates an awakening within the conservation community that the human relationship with coastal and ocean environments must be evaluated in cultural, social, and economic—as well as ecological—dimensions. The major insights from this booklet include:

  • People depend on oceans for food security, recreational opportunities, shoreline protection, climate regulation, and other ecosystem services.
  • Marine resources have tremendous economic value that far exceeds current investments in marine governance, and visitors often are willing to pay far more than existing user fees.
  • MMAs improve human well-being by diversifying livelihoods, enhancing incomes, and improving environmental awareness. They also pose challenges, including loss of access to fishing grounds, inequitable distribution of benefits, dependence on project assistance, and unmet expectations.
  • MMAs are influenced by socioeconomic and governance conditions, including benefits exceeding costs, shared benefits, improved livelihood options, strong community participation, accountable management style, supportive local government, enabling legislation, enforced rules, empowerment and capacity building, strong persistent leadership, and involved external agents.
  • Effective MMAs require strong enforcement, including both soft measures (i.e., education, partnerships) and hard measures (i.e., detection, interception, prosecution, and sanctions).
  • Approaches such as buyouts, conservation agreements, and alternative livelihoods provide positive incentives for altering human behavior.

People and Oceans is a reader-friendly, richly illustrated 20-page booklet that examines the role of people in marine managed areas (MMAs), including the human well-being benefits and challenges of MMAs, and how socioeconomic conditions affect success. Based on 5 years of natural and social science research in 23 countries, it is intended to advance discussions among government agencies, non-government organizations, user groups, and other stakeholders about how and why to implement integrated management for the ocean. People and Oceans is a publication of the Science-to-Action partnership, which includes more than 75 organizations led by Conservation International’s Marine Management Area Science Program.

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Lead authors
Giselle Samonte (Conservation International)
Leah Bunce Karrer (Conservation International)
Michael Orbach (Duke University)

Contributing authors
Adele Catzim-Sanchez (ISIS Belize, Inc.)
Dolores Cordero (University of Panama)
Isabela Baleeiro Curado (Fundação Getulio Vargas,
Escola de Administração de Empresas de São Paulo)
Patrick Sakiusa Fong (University of the South Pacific)
Heidi Gjertsen (Conservation International)
Venetia Hargreaves-Allen (Conservation Strategy Fund)
Christy Loper (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)
Juan Maté (Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama)
Carlos Mena (Universidad San Francisco de Quito)
Ricardo Montenegro (Alianza para la Conservacion y el Desarrollo)
Eduard Niesten (Conservation International)
Joseph Palacio (Belize independent consultant)
Linwood Pendleton (Duke University)
Robert Pomeroy (WorldFish Center)
Diego Quiroga (Universidad San Francisco de Quito)
John Reid (Conservation Strategy Fund)
Oswaldo Rosero (WildAid)
Rashid Sumaila (University of British Columbia)
Daniel Suman (University of Miami)
Joeli Veitayaki (University of the South Pacific)

Images from the booklet
The following images may be downloaded for use in presentations and documents.