The role of stakeholder perceptions and institutions for marine reserve efficacy in the Midriff Islands Region, Gulf of California, Mexico

Maria del Mar Mancha-Cisneros, Alvin N. Suárez-Castillo, Jorge Torre, John Anderies, Leah Gerber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Governance of marine resources underscores the role of social, economic, and political objectives in achieving conservation outcomes. Marine protected areas, specifically no-take areas (NTAs) where all extractive uses are prohibited, are now widely-used to promote sustainable fisheries and protect marine biodiversity. However, no-take areas have had mixed success, and the governance structures that determine success are not well understood. The institutional, social, economic, and political context of the no-take areas and the response of resource users to their establishment are rarely considered in establishing marine reserves. In developing countries with high levels of poverty and low enforcement capacity, harvest practices rarely adhere to formal laws and regulations. As a consequence, many no-take areas have become “paper parks” that fail to provide ecological and social benefits. In this paper, we use the Coupled-Infrastructure System (CIS) framework to explore the problem of “paper parks” by assessing stakeholder perceptions, preferences, and levels of knowledge on NTAs within a regional system of three no-take areas in the Gulf of California, Mexico. Using structured interviews, we found differences in perceptions about the use of NTAs for conservation of biodiversity and management of fisheries, misconceptions about the location of current NTAs, and problems of non-compliance behavior. We identify a weak relationship between the perception of NTAs by the resource users and the way in which current NTA tools operate in Mexico. Consequently, anticipated success based on the mere presence of the NTA and its regulations is hindered by how the resource users interact with the resource itself, but more importantly by what leads up to this hindrance. A focus on this weakness in the CIS system is critical to achieving NTA objectives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)181-192
Number of pages12
JournalOcean and Coastal Management
StatePublished - Aug 1 2018


  • Fisheries management
  • Governance of marine resources
  • Institutions
  • No-take areas
  • Non-compliance
  • Stakeholder perceptions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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