Research Article: Impact of a local, coastal community based management regime when defining marine protected areas: Empirical results from a study in Okinawa, Japan

Date Published: March 8, 2019

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Payal Shah, Sahan T. M. Dissanayake, Yoko Fujita, Paulo A. L. D. Nunes, Baogui Xin.


There is a growing impetus to increase marine protected areas coverage globally from 6% to 30% in 2030. Successfully establishing and maintaining marine protected areas require incorporating public preferences into their establishment and management. We investigate the role of alternate management regimes (top-down and bottom-up) on preferences for marine protected areas and the marginal rate of substitution between natural and man-made capital using a case study in the Asia-Pacific region of Okinawa, Japan. We implemented a choice experiment survey to infer which attributes of marine protected areas are most important for the respondents. We use our survey results to calculate respondents’ willingness to support marine protected areas in Okinawa. This study contributes to the policy debate on management of marine protected areas with empirical data that characterizes the perception of Okinawan residents with respect to the role of local coastal communities (bottom-up) compared to central government based agencies (top-down) management. We extend the analysis and estimate the trade-offs to residents in Okinawa between natural capital (i.e. coral coverage and marine biodiversity attribute) and man-made capital (i.e. restrictions on coastal development). We find that the underlying management regime affects the local residents’ valuation of the marine protected area with residents showing a higher willingness to support bottom-up management regimes. There is also substantial differences in the willingness to support different characteristics of marine protected areas by management type. Finally, we find that the marginal rate of substitution between natural capital and man-made capital varies by management type such that residents would need to be compensated relatively less in terms of man-made capital in the presence of a policy scenario that proposes an increase in natural capital under a bottom-up management regime.

Partial Text

Today marine protected areas (MPAs) cover almost 6% of the earth’s coastal and marine areas. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has adopted scientists’ recommendation that world leaders should conserve at least 30% of the ocean by 2030 to maintain biodiversity, boost fisheries productivity, and safeguard the myriad economic, cultural, and life-supporting benefits of the sea. Chile and the Arctic are two examples that are already moving in this direction. Recently, Chile established the world’s largest MPA, Rapa Nui National Park, roughly the size of Chile’s land area, aiming to safeguard the waters surrounding the Pacific Ocean islands. Another large marine area covering 1.5 million square kilometers, an area about five times the size of Germany, in the Weddell Sea and around the Antarctic Peninsula, has been agreed upon to be set aside for protection that will ban fishing and safeguard species such as penguins, killer whales, leopard seals and blue whales. In this context, Japan, the focus of this study, is also increasing its share of coastal and marine areas dedicated to conservation, especially for the conservation of reef-building corals and the associated marine biodiversity mainly found in its southernmost prefecture of Okinawa. In 2014 the Ministry of Environment of Japan designated the Kerama Islands in Okinawa as the country’s 31st national park, protecting approximately 1000 square kilometers of marine and surrounding terrestrial areas.

We present the results for the main effects specification for the MMNL model with the ASC in Table 3. The first column of Table 3 presents the main effects specification for Model 1 (i.e. without the management interactions). The third column presents the main effects specification for Model 2 (i.e. with the management interactions). The second and the fourth columns present the standard deviations for each of the coefficient estimates. We find that the standard deviations for all coefficients are significant indicating that individual heterogeneity is significant for all attributes.

Respondents favor MPAs that are centered on the extension of the coral coverage along the coast of Okinawa, which in this experiment is interpreted as the conservation of marine environment, regardless of the management types. Thus, emphasizing these benefits when proposing and planning protected areas may garner more support for marine protection, irrespective of the management plan under consideration. However, even for the marine conservation attribute, respondents have a higher level of support when the MPA design and management involve local, coastal communities. This informs that the level of respect and trust that respondents place on the local, coastal communities when managing marine conservation is particularly strong when the proposed objective of the MPA is anchored in the marine conservation and coastal development restrictions attribute.




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