Waves of Change? Politics of Knowledge and Participation in Marine Protected Areas
Marine protected areas (MPAs) are an increasingly prevalent and popular conservation tool, yet there is still much debate over whether they should emphasize the role of expert knowledge or local participation. This debate occurs among an international network of scientists and conservation professionals as well as in relation to particular places and MPAs. This dissertation contributes to an understanding of MPAs by addressing three questions: (1) How do differently situated actors within the MPA social network define and mobilize ideas of knowledge and participation? (2) How are knowledge and participation enacted and perceived in particular MPAs? (3) How do perceptions of knowledge and participation relate to actors' views of the success of MPAs? In order to address these questions, this dissertation presents the results of two separate projects: (1) a survey of international experts at the First International Marine Protected Areas Congress; and (2) an ethnographic study of two marine protected areas and their associated communities and social networks in southern Belize. The results of the survey indicate that the international MPA community is divided in their opinions on what constitutes science and what role scientists should play in the MPA policy process. Scientists who had a positivist view of science were reluctant to engage in MPA policy making, whereas government representatives who held positivist beliefs were more likely to support scientists advocating for particular MPA policies. The results of the ethnographic study in Belize illustrate that multiple groups work to produce, interpret, and contest knowledge for MPA policy, while also engaging in scalar strategies to define what MPAs are, how they should function, and who should be involved in their management. MPA success in Belize is not dependent on either conclusive expert knowledge or positive perceptions of participation, but rather on the accommodation of multiple groups' agendas.
marine protected area
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