Local people's perceptions of marine protected areas : a case study of Ponta do Ouro, Mozambique.
Gaspar, Anselmo Cesar.
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Marine protected areas (MPAs) cannot be managed outside the context of human societies that are dependent on their associated ecosystems and resources. This means that local people’s perceptions need to be considered in the establishment of MPAs as well as their subsequent management, planning and decision making processes. Accordingly, this study investigated respondents’ perceptions of the Ponta do Ouro – Kosi Bay MPA. The MPA is part of the now proclaimed Lubombo Trans-frontier Conservation Area (TFCA). An interviewer - administered questionnaire was used to obtain primary data from 35 respondents, all resident in the study area and who are involved in various activities based on the coastal area and its marine resources. The focus of the study was on awareness regarding the establishment, impacts of the MPA, the setting of priorities for the MPA and lastly, respondents’ roles and responsibilities The findings from the study reveal low levels of awareness of the establishment of the MPA among respondents, although there was acknowledgement of its potential contribution to biodiversity conservation. Various types of impacts of the establishment of the MPA were noted. The establishment of the MPA was perceived to negatively impact on the access to, and use of, marine resources. It was also felt that the MPA would impact on the exercise of traditional authority. Concerning the setting of future priorities for the MPA, socio-economic considerations, particularly job creation rated highest. Biodiversity conservation ranked highest in terms of factors that should shape the current priorities of the MPA. Overall, tourism and related job creation and biodiversity conservation were identified as the main opportunities associated with the establishment of the MPA. Controlling access to the area, curbing inappropriate resource use, controlling development and ensuring that local people benefit were highlighted as major opportunity benefits. Constraints were mainly considered in relation to the exercise of traditional leadership, access to the area and restrictions in selling of harvested marine resources. Regarding how to collaborate in the MPA, various skills among the respondents were mentioned, with respect to the following areas: enforcement (control, patrols and security) and community relations and awareness (including communication and the translation of documents). Lastly, while the respondents displayed both supportive and unsupportive attitudes as results of perceptions of the intended MPA, in an overall sense, the MPA was considered as a positive development. This was in spite of the perceived weak communications that exist at present between the authorities and local people. Enhanced, communication between authorities in charge of the MPA and local people could help to provide a more positive sentiment towards the MPA. This is particularly true of the local people who, if they understood the rationale for the MPA more fully and how it would impact on their use of the resources of the MPA, would be more likely to support its establishment and existence.
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