Coral Reefs

, Volume 26, Issue 4, pp 1035–1045 | Cite as

Designing marine reserves to reflect local socioeconomic conditions: lessons from long-enduring customary management systems



Coral reef conservation strategies such as marine protected areas have met limited success in many developing countries. Some researchers attribute part of these shortcomings to inadequate attention to the social context of conserving marine resources. To gain insights into applying Western conservation theory more successfully in the socioeconomic context of developing countries, this study examines how long-enduring, customary reef closures appear to reflect local socioeconomic conditions in two Papua New Guinean communities. Attributes of the customary management (including size, shape, permanence, and gear restrictions) are examined in relation to prevailing socioeconomic conditions (including resource users’ ability to switch gears, fishing grounds, and occupations). Customary closures in the two communities appear to reflect local socioeconomic circumstances in three ways. First, in situations where people can readily switch between occupations, full closures are acceptable with periodic harvests to benefit from the closure. In comparison, communities with high dependence on the marine resources are more conducive to employing strategies that restrict certain gear types while still allowing others. Second, where there is multiple clan and family spatial ownership of resources, the communities have one closure per clan/family; one large no-take area would have disproportionate affect on those compared to the rest of the community. In contrast, communities that have joint ownership can establish one large closure as long as there are other areas available to harvest. Third, historical and trade relationships with neighboring communities can influence regulations by creating the need for occasional harvests to provide fish for feasts. This study further demonstrates the importance of understanding the socioeconomic context of factors such as community governance and levels of dependence for the conservation of marine resources.


Coral reef Socioeconomic Customary management Marine protected areas Marine tenure 


  1. Agardy T (1997) Marine protected areas and ocean conservation. R.G. Landes, Academic, AustinGoogle Scholar
  2. Agardy T (2000) Information needs for marine protected areas: scientific and social. Bull Mar Sci 66:875–888Google Scholar
  3. Agrawal A (2001) Common property institutions and sustainable governance of resources. World Dev 29:1649–1672CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Agrawal A (2002) Common resources and institutional stability. In: Ostrom E, Dietz T, Dolsak N, Stern P, Stonich S, Weber E (eds) The drama of the commons. National Academies, Washington, pp 293–321Google Scholar
  5. Alvard M (1995) Intraspecific prey choice by Amazon hunters. Curr Anthropol 36:789–818CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Alvard M (1998) Indigenous hunting in the neotropics: conservation or optimal foraging? In: Caro TM (ed) Behavioral ecology and conservation biology. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 474–500Google Scholar
  7. Asafu-Adjaye J (2000) Customary marine tenure systems and sustainable fisheries management in Papua New Guinea. Int J Soc Econ 27:917–926CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Aswani S (1998) Patterns of marine harvest effort in SW New Georgia, Solomon Islands: resource management or optimal foraging? Ocean Coast Manage 40:207–235CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Aswani S (1999) Common property models of sea tenure: a case study from the Roviana and Vonavona Lagoons, New Georgia, Solomon Islands. Hum Ecol 27:417–453CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Aswani S, Hamilton RJ (2004) Integrating indigenous ecological knowledge and customary sea tenure with marine science and social science for conservation of bumphead parrotfish (Bolbometopon muricatum) in the Roviana Lagoon, Solomon Islands. Environ Conserv 31:69–83CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Aswani S, Weiant P (2004) Scientific evaluation in women’s participatory management: monitoring marine invertebrate refugia in the Solomon Islands. Hum Organ 63:301–319Google Scholar
  12. Becker C, Ostrom E (1995) Human ecology and resource sustainability: the importance of institutional diversity. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 26:113–133CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Becker CD, Ghimire K (2003) Synergy between traditional ecological knowledge and conservation science supports forest preservation in Ecuador. Conserv Ecol 8. URL:
  14. Berkes F (1989) Cooperation from the perspective of human ecology. In: Berkes F (ed) Common property resources: ecology and community-based sustainable development. Belhaven, London, pp 70–88Google Scholar
  15. Berkes F, Colding J, Folke C (2000) Rediscovery of traditional ecological knowledge as adaptive management. Ecol Appl 10:1251–1262CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Bunce L, Townsley P, Pomeroy RS, Pollnac RB (2000) Socioeconomic manual for coral reef management. Australian Institute of Marine Science, TownsvilleGoogle Scholar
  17. Carrier J (1982) Conservation and conceptions of the environment: a Manus Province case study. In: Morauta L, Pernetta J, Heaney (eds) Traditional conservation in Papua New Guinea: implications for today. Institute of Applied Social and Economic Research, Boroko, pp 39–43Google Scholar
  18. Carrier J (1987) Marine tenure and conservation in Papua New Guinea. In: McCay B, Acheson J (eds) The question of the commons: the culture and ecology of common resources. University of Arizona Press, Tucson, pp 143–167Google Scholar
  19. Carrier J, Carrier A (1989a) Marine tenure and economic reward on Ponham Island, Manus Province. In: Cordell J (ed) A sea of small boats. Cultural Survival, Cambridge, pp 60–93Google Scholar
  20. Carrier J, Carrier A (1989b) Wage, trade, and exchange in Melanesia: a Manus society in the modern state. University of California Press, BerkeleyGoogle Scholar
  21. Christie P (2004) MPAs as biological successes and social failures in Southeast Asia. In: Shipley JB (ed) Aquatic protected areas as fisheries management tools: design, use, and evaluation of these fully protected areas. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, p 275Google Scholar
  22. Christie P, McCay BJ, Miller ML, Lowe C, White AT, Stoffle R, Fluharty DL, McManus LT, Chuenpagdee R, Pomeroy C, Suman DO, Blount BG, Huppert D, Eisma RLV, Oracion E, Lowry K, Pollnac RB (2003) Toward developing a complete understanding: a social science research agenda for marine protected areas. Fisheries 28:22–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Cinner J (2005a) Socioeconomic factors influencing customary marine tenure in the Indo-Pacific. Ecol Soc 10, p 36. URL:
  24. Cinner J (2005b) The role of socioeconomic factors in customary coral reef management in Papua New Guinea. PhD Thesis, James Cook University, p 221Google Scholar
  25. Cinner J, McClanahan TR (2006) Socioeconomic factors that lead to overfishing in a small-scale coral reef fishery of Papua New Guinea. Environ Conserv 33:1–8CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Cinner J, Marnane MJ, McClanahan TR (2005a) Conservation and community benefits from traditional coral reef management at Ahus Island, Papua New Guinea. Conserv Biol 19:1714–1723CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Cinner J, Marnane MJ, McClanahan TR, Clark TH, Ben J (2005b) Trade, tenure, and tradition: influence of sociocultural factors on resource use in Melanesia. Conserv Biol 19:1469–1477CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Cinner J, Marnane MJ, McClanahan TR, Almany G (2006) Periodic closures as adaptive coral reef management in the Indo-Pacific. Ecol Soc 11, p 31. URL:
  29. Colding J, Folke C (2001) Social taboos “invisible” systems of local resource management and biological conservation. Ecol Appl 11:584–600Google Scholar
  30. Crawford BR, Siahainenia A, Rotinsulu C, Sukmara A (2004) Compliance and enforcement of community-based coastal resource management regulations in North Sulawesi, Indonesia. Coast Manage 32:39–50CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Dahlgren CP, Sobel J (2000) Designing a Dry Tortugas ecological reserve: how big is big enough? To do what? Bull Mar Sci 66:707–719Google Scholar
  32. Dietz T, Ostrom E, Stern P (2003) The struggle to govern the commons. Science 302:1907–1912PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Evans SM, Gill ME, Retraubun ASW, Abrahamz J, Dangeubun J (1997) Traditional management practices and the conservation of the gastropod (Trochus nilitocus) and fish stocks in the Maluku Province (eastern Indonesia). Fish Res 31:83–91CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Fiske S (1992) Sociocultural aspects of establishing marine protected areas. Ocean Coast Manage 17:25–46CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Halpern BS (2003) The impact of marine reserves: do reserves work and does reserve size matter? Ecol Appl 13:S117–S137CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Henry GT (1990) Practical sampling. Sage, Newbury ParkGoogle Scholar
  37. Hughes TP, Baird AH, Bellwood DR, Card M, Connolly SR, Folke C, Grosberg R, Hoegh-Guldberg O, Jackson JBC, Kleypas J, Lough JM, Marshall P, Nystrom M, Palumbi S, Pandolfi JM, Rosen B, Rougharden J (2003) Climate change, human impacts, and the resilience of coral reefs. Science 301:929–933PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Hviding E (1996) Guardians of the Marovo Lagoon: practice, place, and politics in maritime Melanesia. University Press of Hawai’i, HonoluluGoogle Scholar
  39. Johannes RE (2002) The renaissance of community-based marine resource management in Oceania. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 33:317–340CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Lise W (2000) Factors influencing people’s participation in forest management in India. Ecol Econ 34:379–392CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. McClanahan T (1999) Is there a future for coral reef parks in poor tropical countries. Coral Reefs 18:321–325 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. McClanahan TR (2002) The near future of coral reefs. Environ Conserv 29:460–483CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. McClanahan T, Glaesel H, Rubens J, Kiambo R (1997) The effects of traditional fisheries management on fisheries yields and the coral-reef ecosystems of southern Kenya. Environ Conserv 24:105–120CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. McClanahan T, Marnane M, Cinner J, Clark T, Kiene W (2006) A comparison of marine protected areas and alternative approaches to coral reef conservation. Curr Biol 16:1408–1413PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Neitschmann B (1985) Torres Strait Islander sea resource management and sea rights. In: Ruddle K, Johannes RE (eds) The traditional knowledge and management of coastal systems in Asia and the Pacific. UNESCO, Jakarta Pusat, pp 53–77Google Scholar
  46. Ostrom E (1990) Governing the commons: the evolution of institutions for collective action. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  47. Pearce J (2002) The future of fisheries—marine protected areas—a new way forward or another management glitch? Mar Pollut Bull 44:89–91PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Pollnac RB (1998) Rapid assessment of management parameters for coral reefs. Coastal Resources Center, University of Rhode Island, NarragansettGoogle Scholar
  49. Pollnac RB, Crawford B (2000) Assessing behavioural aspects of coastal resource use. Coastal Resources Center, University of Rhode Island, NarragansettGoogle Scholar
  50. Pollnac RB, Crawford BR, Gorospe M (2001) Discovering factors that influence the success of community-based marine protected areas in the Visayas, Philippines. Ocean Coast Manage 44:683–710CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Polunin NVC (1984) Do traditional marine “reserves” conserve? A view of Indonesian and New Guinean evidence. In: Ruddle K, Akimichi T (eds) Maritime institutions in the Western Pacific. National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka, pp 267–284Google Scholar
  52. Pretty J (2003) Social capital and the collective management of resources. Science 302:1912–1914PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Ravuvu AD (1983) Vaki i Takui. The Fijian way of life. University of the South Pacific, SuvaGoogle Scholar
  54. Roberts CM, Polunin NVC (1991) Are marine reserves effective in management of reef fisheries? Rev Fish Biol Fish 1:65–91CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Roberts CM, Andelman S, Branch G, Bustamante RH, Castilla JC, Dugan J, Halpern BS, Lafferty KD, Leslie H, Lubchenco J, McArdle D, Possingham HP, Ruckelshaus M, Warner RR (2003) Ecological criteria for evaluating candidate sites for marine reserves. Ecol Appl 13:S199–S214CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Ruddle K (1995) A guide to the literature on traditional community-based fishery management in Fiji. Secretariat of the Pacific Community Traditional Marine Resource Management Knowledge Information Bulletin 5:7–15 (
  57. Ruttan LM (1998) Closing the commons: cooperation for gain or restraint? Hum Ecol 26:43–66CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Ruttan LM, Borgerhoff Mulder M (1999) Are east African pastoralists truly conservationists? Curr Anthropol 40:621–652PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Sale PF, Cowen RK, Danilowiz BS, Jones JP, Kritzer JP, Lindeman KC, Planes S, Polunin NVC, Russ GR, Sadovy YJ, Steneck RS (2005) Critical science gaps impede use of no-take fishery reserves. Trends Ecol Evol 20:74–80PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Scheaffer RL, Mendenhall WI, Ott L (1996) Elementary survey sampling. Wadsworth, BelmontGoogle Scholar
  61. Sladek Nowlis J, Roberts CM (1999) Fisheries benefits and optimal design of marine reserves. Fish Bull 97:604–616Google Scholar
  62. Smith E, Wishnie M (2000) Conservation and subsistence in small-scale societies. Annu Rev Anthropol 29:493–524CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Sutinen JG, Kuperan K (1999) A socio-economic theory of regulatory compliance. Inter J Soc Econ 26:174–193CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. White AT, Courtney CA, Salamanca A (2002) Experience with marine protected area planning and management in the Philippines. Coast Manage 30:1–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Willis TJ, Millar RB, Babcock RC, Tolimieri N (2003) Burdens of evidence and the benefits of marine reserves: putting Descartes before des horse? Environ Conserv 30:97–103CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Wright A (1985) Marine resource use in Papua New Guinea: can traditional concepts and contemporary development be integrated? In: Ruddle K, Johannes RE (eds) The traditional knowledge and management of coastal systems in Asia and the Pacific. UNESCO, Jakarta Pusat, pp 53–77Google Scholar
  67. Zanetell BA, Knuth BA (2004) Participation rhetoric or community-based management reality? Influences on willingness to participate in a Venezuelan freshwater fishery. World Dev 32:793–807CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef StudiesJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia

Personalised recommendations