Research has shown that the success of marine resource management is influenced by the levels of trust that exists between decision-makers and the rest of society.
In his latest paper, “Building trust among marine protected area managers and community members through scientific research: Insights from the Ningaloo Marine Park, Australia”, published in the journal Marine Policy, lead author Dr Chris Cvitanovic from the Centre for Marine Socioecology at University of Tasmania, says community engagement is critical to management success.
“We wanted to understand what, if any, impact the Ningaloo Marine Research Program had on residents of the region. To do so we surveyed 125 local residents across Exmouth and Coral Bay, and found that the majority of residents believe that scientific research is important for the management of the marine park, and strongly support government investment in scientific research in the region,” Dr Cvitanovic said.
“More interestingly, the results also suggest that science undertaken through the Ningaloo Research Program has increased the extent to which community members trust local MPA managers and decision-makers, with many community members also suggesting that this increase in trust has led to improved social and environmental outcomes in the region.”
“The extent to which scientific research can build and maintain trust among MPA managers and community members, however, is dependent on an effective community engagement and outreach program that is implemented throughout, and following the completion of, the research,” Dr Cvitanovic said. “To this end our study also identified strategies and opportunities to further enhance trust between community members and marine park managers in the Ningaloo region, for example, via targeted communication and engagement programs that account for different personality ‘types’ and the establishment of new citizen science programs.”
Co-author Dr Kelly Waples fom the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (formerly Parks and Wildlife) said one of the values presented by the Western Australian Marine Science Institution, and captured in the latest paper, has been the initiative and opportunity to go back and evaluate how effective the research program has been with respect to conservation outcomes.
“It has been a very valuable exercise to assess the elements of these large research programs that work well and where we may need to increase our efforts to ensure conservation outcomes for the marine environment and for the community,” Dr Waples said. “It does confirm that government investment in science has been very worthwhile and, given what we have learned, benefits will be improved in future programs.”
The research was funded by the Western Australian Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, the Western Australian Marine Science Institution and the Centre for Marine Socioecology at the University of Tasmania.
Cvitanovic C, van Putten EI, Hobday AJ, Mackay M, Kelly R, McDonald J, Waples K, Barnes P (2018) Building trust among marine protected area managers and community members through scientific research: Insights from the Ningaloo Marine Park, Australia. Marine Policy doi.org/10.1016/j.marpol.2018.04.010