Stakeholder perceptions of the social dimensions of marine and coastal conservation in Guatemala

Abstract

Understanding the social dimensions of marine and coastal conservation is considered integral to better inform governance and management actions. Perceptions are recognized as a way to understand these dimensions, which can evidence limitations of current efforts, while facilitating more informed policy-making and provide a basis for more robust management actions. Following a qualitative and case study approach, this paper utilizes stakeholder interviews to explore the perceptions on marine ecosystems and current management actions that include marine protected areas (MPAs) in the Central American country of Guatemala. Results identify similarities and contrasts in the perception of marine conservation and MPAs, where weak local governments and limited community participation in the decision-making process can be considered the underlying problems. Recommendations are made which can capitalize upon multi-level improvements that need to integrate all stakeholder groups. Improvements should also consider the regional setting and must reflect Guatemala’s historical and social context. This paper highlights that stakeholder perceptions need a central role to further improve the quality of governance in coastal Guatemala. Recommendations can further assist other developing countries facing similar challenges.

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Acknowledgments

The first author would like to acknowledge all the participants for their time and interest, including officials of the National Council of Protected Areas (CONAP), the Fisheries Unit (DIPESCA), and the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MARN), for their time and contacts of other organizations. A special thanks to the Coordinator of the GEF Project in Guatemala, Raquel Sigüenza, for her support with the fieldtrip to the Pacific Region to interview local municipalities, and to Fernando García for his support, insights, and friendship.

Funding

Financial support was provided by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of the Australian Government through the Australia Awards Scholarship (ID: AAS1401414), and by the UWA School of Agriculture and Environment.

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Correspondence to Maria J. Gonzalez-Bernat.

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Gonzalez-Bernat, M.J., Clifton, J. & Pauli, N. Stakeholder perceptions of the social dimensions of marine and coastal conservation in Guatemala . Maritime Studies 18, 127–138 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40152-018-00130-1

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Keywords

  • Guatemala
  • Governance
  • Stakeholder perceptions
  • Marine ecosystems
  • Marine protected areas