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Case Studies
The case studies were extracted from the report of:

Status of Marine Protected Areas and Fish Refugia in the Bay of Bengal
Large Marine Ecosystem

Patrick Christie and L. Katrina ole Moi-Yoi

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Improving Governmental Collaboration in Sri Lanka, India and the Maldives

Developing effective coordination between government agencies is critical for MPA success. MPAs are affected by terrestrial activities including agricultural runoff, industrial development, aquaculture, port construction and tourism infrastructure. Coral reefs are particularly sensitive to sedimentation, which increases with deforestation. Given the interconnectedness between marine and terrestrial ecosystems, it is not surprising that MPAs are commonly subject to regulation by multiple government agencies. MPA success can rest upon upward and downward institutional accountability, in a system in which local government institutions are accountable to national agencies, and as a result, are supported with national agency funds and technical assistance. Ensuring such collaboration and effective coordination between agencies remains a challenge across much of the region, however, and overlapping mandates and limited jurisdictional control can hamper MPA success.

Buoy marking boundary of the Hikkaduwa Marine Reserve, Sri Lanka. Photo credit: Arjan Rajasuriya
Sri Lanka has a relatively long history of integrated coastal management (ICM). ICM can be defined as "the process by which multiple use of the coastal and marine environment is managed so that a wide range of needs are catered for, including both biodiversity protection and sustainable use, allowing all stakeholders…to participate and benefit" (IUCN et al. 2008, page 43). ICM further allows for the integration of terrestrial and marine management by empowering managers to protect 'downstream' resources from 'upstream' activities. Sri Lanka's Coastal Conservation Department created a Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP), which provides the basis for managing the coastal zone in an "integrated, holistic manner" (IUCN et al. 2008). The CZMP mandates that marine management activities must be designed for specific geographic contexts, and consider the connections between human activities and changes in coastal ecosystems (IUCN et al. 2008). The CZMP further deals with issues that indirectly impact MPAs, such as coastal erosion and unregulated coastal development – both of which are particularly pronounced issues in Sri Lanka. The CZMP also allows for the establishment of Special Area Management (SAM) sites, which enable the implementation of ICM at a site level. The Hikkaduwa National Marine Park was declared a SAM site in 1992, and as a result, has experienced improved collaboration between local organizations and government agencies. It now has a management plan to address major social, environmental and economic challenges in the area. Finally, by bringing the governance of coastal activities under a single umbrella, the CZMP helps facilitate communication between different government agencies. For instance, in order for the Fisheries Ministry to declare fisheries reserves, they must first consult with the Ministry of Environment. Lastly, the CZMP provides a basis to improve community collaboration with government agencies, and in the case of Hikkaduwa National Park and the Bar Reef Marine Sanctuary, the Community Coordination Committees play a pivotal role in management by acting as facilitators between all stakeholders.

In India, the government is working to improve interagency collaboration by including representatives from the Department of Fisheries on the State Board of Wildlife (the focal MPA agency). This has led to inter-agency collaboration in the Gulf of Mannar National Park, where an advisory group (Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve Trust) not only provides technical advice and recommendations, but is also responsible for implementation of activities (FAO 2010). Despite notable progress towards improved collaboration, a 2008 mid-term evaluation found that more work is needed, however. Specifically, there is a "lack of engagement of crucial line departments and programs…[and] the Biosphere Reserve management program must integrate the responsibilities of Fisheries, Coastal Management, Pollution Control Board, Forestry and Wildlife…into a single Authority" which would hold ultimate responsibility for Reserve management (Hunnam and Sankaran 2008, page 5).

Elsewhere in the Bay of Bengal, non-government actors play a pivotal role in helping facilitate communication between government agencies. In the case of the Maldives, the private sector works in close collaboration with the government to declare and manage protected areas.

Balancing the Needs of Local Communities with MPAs in Thailand and India

Balancing conservation priorities with the needs of local and indigenous communities living in or near protected areas remains a challenge throughout the Bay of Bengal region. This is especially true in relatively poor areas, where local communities rely upon the extraction of natural resources for their livelihoods. Orissa, which is home to the Gahirmatha Marine Wildlife Sanctuary, is one of the poorest states in India. Communities in the area report that stringent fishing restrictions and other conservation measures have resulted in declining incomes, increased indebtedness, and even mass emigration (ICSF 2008). In the Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park in the Andaman Islands, perceived inequities between local fishermen and tour boat operators led to much strife. Prior to the establishment of the park, local fishermen brought tourists to the area, which helped generate interest in the local marine environment. Indeed, it was thanks to such exposure that the MPA was eventually declared. Following the official designation of the park, however, local fishermen were barred from using their boats within park boundaries, as only larger boats from businesses based in Port Blair were permitted to lead tourist excursions (IUCN et al. 2008). Though this particular issue was eventually resolved, it limited income opportunities for fishermen, and is an example of the potential consequences of failing to take the needs of local communities into account.

The availability and usage of socioeconomic data in planning processes can help assure that negative socioeconomic impacts of MPAs are avoided or mitigated. In Thailand, efforts are underway to improve the collection of such data at the Surin Islands Marine National Park and the Turutao National Marine Park, which are used/inhabited by the Moken people and the Urak Lawoi people respectively. Specifically, a local program (the 'Andaman Pilot Project') is working to use socioeconomic data to improve understanding of traditional livelihoods and identify economic opportunities that "promote cultural survival as well as natural conservation" (UNESCO 2007). The project is specifically analyzing indicators such as employment security, land use security, and financial capacity such as income, debt and savings. Though this project only operates within the Surin and Turutao MPAs, there are opportunities to scale up the methodology and framework elsewhere in Thailand, and indeed, across the Bay of Bengal.

It is also possible to minimize negative socioeconomic impacts of MPAs by fully engaging local communities in MPA design and management processes. According to data gathered in India, it is rare for communities to outright oppose conservation efforts – instead, more common is frustration over their lack of inclusion in governance and decision processes, which in turn, can result in inadequate prioritization of their needs and resistance to MPAs (IUCN et al. 2008). In the Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve in India, the government worked with local communities to increase such participation. Specifically, mechanisms were put in place to facilitate local participation, and local 'Eco-Development Committees' developed geographically specific plans for their areas that addressed conservation and development issues (IUCN et al. 2008). These committees received support from both the government and local NGOs, and over the period of four years, 54 such plans were developed and implemented in the area. This type of collaborative management can not only minimize adverse socioeconomic impacts, but also improve community support for MPAs (thereby increasing rule compliance and reducing the resources needed for enforcement). The development of effective co-management of MPAs will require leadership, laws, and experience to ensure that MPA goals are balanced.

Balancing between Tourism and Conservation: Examples from Malaysia and the Maldives

Balancing between tourism and conservation can be a profound challenge. On the one hand, the purpose of many MPAs is to create an opportunity for people to enjoy marine environments, often through recreational activities like diving, snorkelling, boating and site seeing. If unregulated, such activities can undermine conservation efforts by causing the degradation of marine resources. Negative impacts can include the generation of waste, the removal of natural "souvenirs", trampling of reefs, and the indirect impacts associated with the development of tourism infrastructure. In the case of Thailand, there are growing concerns over the impacts associated with the coastal tourism industry. Though the industry brings in considerable sums of revenue, over 100,000 visitors enter some marine parks each year, and there are growing concerns over sewage, pollution and the problems associated with poorly planned coastal infrastructure.

Perhentian Islands Marine Park Center, Malaysia. Photo credit: Badrul Huzaimi
In Malaysia, researchers initiated a tourism carrying capacity study of the Pulau Payar Marine Park, a popular tourism destination off the western coast of Peninsular Malaysia known for its coral reefs. The Park, which encompasses four different islands, experienced exponential growth in visitation rates between 1988 and 2000, during which point the number of annual visitors grew from 1,373 to 102,855. Based upon the results of the study and concerns that the surmounting pressures of rapid tourism growth might degrade the Park, the researchers concluded, "further expansion of tourism development and related activities is not acceptable…due to the potential negative impacts on the marine environment" (Lim 1998). In addition to advocating for the curtailment of visitation numbers, planners also responded by developing a detailed management strategy to minimize negative impacts on the coral reefs, as well as develop recommendations for zoning, increasing public awareness, and other management actions. Visitation rates have since reached a plateau over the past decade, although recommended visitation rates vary from park to park (DMPM 2010). By assessing and understanding MPA carrying capacity, it is possible to take action that not only maximizes visitor enjoyment, but also helps maintain the health of MPA ecosystems and their very ability to provide ecosystem services.

The Maldives is taking a different approach to balancing tourism and conservation. The government has carefully regulated the growth of the industry by limiting the number of resorts allowed, and requiring detailed environmental impact assessments for all planned developments (IUCN et al. 2008). The government further requires that tourism facilities adhere to stringent operational guidelines regarding waste disposal, recreational activities and possible cultural impacts (IUCN et al. 2008). Local resorts and dive operators spearhead much of the marine conservation work, by helping (and sometimes leading) the coral reef management, promoting responsible tourism activities, and even instigating the process to declare MPAs.

MPAs for Fisheries Management: Examples from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka

Planning which balances fisheries and conservation goals is essential for MPA success, especially in contexts with active fisheries. Planners must consider biodiversity and fisheries assessments when devising recommendations. Both scientific knowledge and local resource user knowledge should be utilized, and collaborative planning processes must balance the interests of diverse constituencies.

One of the goals of MPAs is to enhance fisheries productivity by enabling a 'spill-over' effect. 'Spillover' is said to occur when fish biomass increases outside of MPA boundaries as a result of protecting critical habitat and allowing marine life to mature to a reproductive age. In order to increase the likelihood of spillover, planners typically recommend protecting spawning aggregation sites, nursery grounds, and key migratory corridors. Unfortunately, there is very little evidence of spillover effects across the Bay of Bengal region, in part due to a lack of baseline data and consistent monitoring. No-take areas, especially large ones, are also difficult to implement. For instance, the designation of 306km2 of the Bar Reef Marine Sanctuary as a no-take zone has been difficult to implement due to a lack of political will, funding, staff and equipment. The local fishing communities have also expressed concerns about impacts on their livelihoods, as the demarcation meant lost access to important fishing grounds.

Recent efforts in Bangladesh demonstrate the potential benefits of establishing protected areas for the explicit purpose of improving fisheries management. The government recently declared 'hilsa closed-seasons' in some of the country's most productive fishing grounds. This species, which requires freshwater habitat to reproduce, is the most commercially valuable fish species in Bangladesh, and plays a critical role in food security. Fishing is banned in these sanctuaries during certain periods of the year, and there are zone restrictions on both artisanal and commercial operators. According to studies, hilsa catch has increased by approximately 100,000 tonnes following the declaration of four 'hilsa closed-seasons' and a ban on the collection of hilsa fry in freshwater zones (Patkar 2004).

Elsewhere in the region, there are 'fishery-managed areas' in Sri Lanka and 'fisheries spawning grounds' in Thailand, but very little information about these sites is available online. Similarly, there are protected areas that explicitly seek to protect fish breeding grounds, such as the Sundarbans Biosphere Reserve in India/Bangladesh, and the Meinmahla Kyun Wildlife Sanctuary in Myanmar.

Another example comes from Sri Lanka, where the Government established a security zone in the Colombo harbor in the late 1990s (banning all fishing and diving, among other things). This led to the formation of a de-facto no take zone, which was patrolled by the Sri Lankan navy. According to available studies, this has led to increased lobster abundance on reefs in the harbor (IUCN et al. 2008). Though this particular initiative did not explicitly identify resource management as a motivating goal, it demonstrated that "no-take zones are beneficial for the lobster fishery and with time may receive support from fishermen" (IUCN et al. 2008, page 192).

Towards Sustainable MPA Financing in Malaysia and India

A lack of funding plagues many MPAs across the Bay of Bengal region. Since insufficient funding can translate into lowered capacity for management and hamper MPA success, it is essential to plan and implement sustainable finance policies at the outset. Identifying sustainable funding sources and developing a strategic and equitable allocation plan are essential elements, as is the transparent allocation of funds.

In order to respond to MPA funding needs, the Malaysian government created the Marine Park Trust Fund in 1987. The Fund helped cover considerable MPA start-up costs, and was initially used to help build Marine Park Centres and procure vehicles and equipment. Though initially established with a government grant of approximately $13 million, the Fund is currently replenished through the collection of conservation fees from tourists, charitable donations, and the sale/rental of souvenirs, books, equipment and facilities at the Marine Park Centres throughout the country (Ramli 1999; Hiew 1999). It is notable that the Fund was established for the explicit purpose of "achieving a status of self-financing in the near future" (Ramli 1999, page 83). In other words, although the Fund required an initially large government investment, it helped pave the way towards sustainable MPA financing and now draws revenue through the collection of fees and sales.

In India, implementing partners of the Gulf of Mannar National Park and Biosphere Reserve have been working to establish a long-term, autonomous funding mechanism that would enable the Reserve to eventually end its reliance on government funding for core operations. According to a 2008 mid-term program evaluation, the success of this effort has been mixed, however (Hunnam and Sankaran 2008). GEF provided $1 million to capitalize the trust fund, with the expectation that the Government would match this investment with $4 million. It was estimated that the $5 million would yield around $350,00 each year, which could be used for management activities (Hunnam and Sankaran 2008). As of the evaluation, however, the $4 million had not been deposited, and almost all of the $1 million had been used to set up and provide capital for 252 community micro-funds. Though this latter action deviates from the initial project plan, the evaluation discusses the successes of the community micro-funds, which "provide an appropriate, innovative and reasonably strong foundation for establishing the Long Term Funding Mechanism" (Hunnam and Sankaran 2008).

In a second example from Malaysia, researchers employed economic valuation tools in the late 1990s to explore potentially untapped revenue streams. Though the government initially imposed a flat 'conservation fee' of US $1.32 on domestic and foreign visitors in 1999 (Yeo 2004), some believed that it might be possible to capture greater MPA revenue. As such, researchers began conducting 'willingness to pay' surveys around the Pulau Payar Marine Park, and found that 91% of visitors expressed a willingness to pay if the "money collected were to be used exclusively to improve the management of the park" (Yeo 2004). Foreign visitors expressed a willingness to pay approximately double the amount expressed by domestic tourists, indicating the need for multi-tier pricing in order to capitalize on potential revenue. Such multi-tier pricing systems can not only boost park revenue, but are oftentimes more equitable, as "international tourists receive substantial enjoyment from the [park] experience, yet pay low (if any) entrance fees [or] taxes to support the park, and do not bear the opportunity costs of not using the resource for agriculture, logging or other activities" (Lindberg 1991; Yeo 2004). Though the Department of Marine Parks in Malaysia has yet to introduce such a system, this particular study can serve as a model for MPAs elsewhere in the region to help identify new funding streams. Indeed, a similar study in the Mu Ko Similan Marine National Park in Thailand found that divers are willing to pay an average of $27.55 in scuba diving fees, which is considerably higher than the $4.80 fee in place, and could result in economic gains of $932,520 per year (Asafu-Adjaye and Tapsuwan 2008).

  • IUCN, CORDIO and ICRAN. 2008. Managing Marine and Coastal Protected Areas: A Toolkit for South Asia. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Bangkok, Thailand; CORDIO, Kalmar, Sweden; and ICRAN, Cambridge, UK.
  • Hunnam, Peter and Ravi Sankaran. 2008. Mid Term Evaluation, Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve Project, Conservation and Sustainable Use of Coastal Biodiversity. Government of Tamil Nadu, Government of India, United Nations Development Programme, and Global Environment Facility. 63 pages.
  • Food and Agriculture Organization. 2010. National approaches to marine protected areas: case studies on policy, governance and institutional issues - Brazil, India, Palau and Senegal. FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Technical Paper 566/1. FAO, Rome.
  • International Collective in Support of Fishworkers (ICSF). 2008. Reserved parking: Marine reserves and small-scale fishing communities: A collection of articles from SAMUDRA Report. Edited by KG Kumar. Chennai, India. 76 pages
  • UNESCO, 2007. Bridging the gap between the rights and needs of indigenous communities and the management of protected areas: Case studies from Thailand. Bangkok: UNESCO Bangkok, Thailand. 63 pages
  • Lim, Li Ching. 1998. Carrying capacity assessment of Pulau Payar Marine Park, Malaysia. Produced under the Bay of Bengal Programme. Madras, India. 139 pages
  • Department of Marine Parks Malaysia (DMPM) Website. 2010. Accessed November 2010. Available online at:
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  • Yeo, B.H. 2004. The recreational benefits of coral reefs: A case study of Pulau Payar Marine Park, Kedah, Malaysia. WorldFish Center, Economic Valuation and Policy Priorities for Sustainable Management of Coral Reefs. 10 pages
  • Lindberg, K.1991. Policies for maximizing nature tourism‘s ecological and economic benefits. International Conservation Financing Project Working Paper. World Resources Institute. Washington, D.C., U.S.A.
  • Asafu-Adjaye, John and Sorada Tapsuwan. 2008. A contingent valuation study of scuba diving benefits: Case study in Mu Ko Similan Marine National Park, Thailand. Tourism Management 29. Pp. 1122 – 1130
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