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Poverty and Reefs

4.3 Preventing Reef Decline

Considerable effort has focused on preventing reef decline and conserving reef resources. The following sections describe a range of different interventions commonly encountered in attempts to prevent reef decline and discusses their relative success and failure in dealing with poverty-related reef issues.

4.3.1 Reefs incorporated into Integrated Coastal Zone Management systems

Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) has been widely applied in coral reef areas in an attempt to try to manage development and solve the complexity of issues in coastal areas in a more cross-sectoral and holistic way. As a theoretical concept it aims to integrate environmental, social, cultural and economic concerns through an iterative process of planning, action and evaluation, involving stakeholder participation at all levels and at all stages. However, in the inevitable prioritisation of the vast range of issues to be addressed in the coastal zone, certain concerns take precedence. In a review of coastal projects in Eastern Africa, Moffat et al. (1998) suggest that a large majority of ICZM efforts remain focused on biodiversity conservation, often to the neglect of local development. Given the close linkages between poverty and environmental degradation, this imbalance compromises both the ability of ICZM to contribute to improving the lives of poor stakeholders, as well as its ability to achieve its explicit objective of conservation. It was also noted that many ICZM efforts in Eastern Africa were implemented by external donors or NGOs through short-term projects, when the management interventions themselves required long-term inputs to achieve and sustain change and to respond to the dynamic nature of lives on the coast (Moffat et al., 1998).

White and Deguit (2000) suggest that after many years of working with ICZM approaches in the Philippines, new directions for coastal management are required. This involves, amongst other things, much greater levels of participation than has been used in the past. In reviewing progress on the management of coral reefs in Eastern Africa, Wells (2000) notes that the priority ingredients for success are:
  • Involving local communities in decision-making and management;
  • Ensuring appropriate livelihoods for those immediately dependent on reefs for their income;
  • Developing integrated coastal management frameworks for coral reef management;
  • Involving the tourism and dive industries;
  • Identifying mechanisms for sustainable financing;
  • Promoting training and capacity building;
  • Establishing long-term monitoring programmes.
She also points out that coral reef management is becoming seen much more ‘as a way of life’ rather than a series of short-term projects. Collaborative approaches to reef management are discussed more below.

4.3.2 Collaborative or cooperative management approaches to reefs

Collaborative and cooperative management approaches to coral reef management, as part of wider ICZM initiatives, or as distinct strategies of their own, have emerged from the recognition that an absence of community involvement in, and ownership of, interventions has played a significant part in the failure of many coral reef management efforts. Many existing approaches have tended to ignore local knowledge and capacity, marginalizing local users and failing to respond to their needs. Collaborative or comanagement places the local reef stakeholders at the centre of any intervention, involving them in decision-making and management and addressing their needs and aspirations in collaboration with local government, NGO and private institutions (Box 36). Through this collaboration, human resources, expertise and funding are spread across a range of groups, which can ensure a higher possibility of success in developing countries where any single institution is unlikely to have the capacity to support long-term management interventions.

In a review of a selection of community-based coral reef management interventions from around the world, White (1994) notes that despite the overall success of greater involvement of communities in management such interventions must recognise:
  • No model exists for collaborative or co-management and the nature and balance of roles, responsibilities and stakeholders involved will depend on local circumstances. Clearly defining these roles in an equitable way is an essential part of the process. For some collaborators their roles and responsibilities may well be different from established behaviours and will require support to accommodate change. For example, local community organisations may be weak or non-existent and will require strengthening over time to fully engage in a meaningful way.
  • The wider socio-economic and political context is the source of important influencing forces, which may constrain the ability of the community to respond to problems. For example, controlling the impact of external market forces or resource users from outside the community, will require strong community organisation and co-ordination with external stakeholders, it may also be benefited by legitimising local ownership over resources.
  • Existing traditional management systems offer opportunities and constraints to collaborative or co-management, which need to be fully understood to maximise effectiveness. For example, controls over resource access and use commonly encountered in traditional management systems can be used as effective fisheries management tools and are much the same as many contemporary fisheries controls. However, the rationale and values behind the use of such controls in their traditional context may be quite different and even at odds with contemporary goals and so must be fully understood within their context to affect the desired outcome.
  • The role of donor agencies needs to accommodate a flexible and process-orientated approach, recognising the diversity of needs, values and opportunities of local stakeholders and the considerable time and commitment required to support innovative and small-scale community-orientated initiatives and to ensure sustainability.
4.3.3 Marine protected areas

One focused instrument often used in ICZM is the Marine Protected Area (MPA). There are over 1,600 MPAs scattered throughout the world’s oceans4, covering 1% of the marine environment, of which 660 incorporate coral reefs (Spalding et al., 2001). MPAs, known variously as marine parks, reserves, or sanctuaries are increasingly being used as tools in ICZM and collaborative or cooperative management initiatives, for protecting and restoring marine biodiversity, ensuring sustainable fisheries management and in association with tourism developments. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature,5 the purpose of MPAs is to:
  • Help protect vulnerable habitats and threatened species;
  • Increase fishery productivity by protecting critical breeding, nursery, and feeding habitats such as estuaries, mangroves, seagrass beds, and coral reefs;
  • Protect breeding populations which can help restock and restore overexploited areas;
  • Reduce the impact of tourism and other direct human activities;
  • Provide local communities with alternative livelihoods, such as well-managed tourism.
Depending on local circumstances, MPAs vary greatly in the extent to which they meet these multiple objectives. In some cases MPAs may be established principally as a tool for biodiversity protection, fisheries management or tourism and in other cases multiple use strategies, including a number of the above may be employed.

There is evidence that MPAs can be used effectively to meet these objectives, in particular in enhancing fish stocks. However, only a decade ago it was noted that only a small percentage of the world’s MPAs were effectively managed (White, 1994). Kenchington (2000) notes that ‘. . . the concept of a protected area that can be managed in effective isolation from activities in surrounding areas is not ecologically tenable’. Likewise, the success of MPAs in terms of sustaining reef benefits to poor stakeholders depends largely on the extent to which locals have participated in negotiating the objectives of the area and in subsequent management and monitoring (Box 37).

4.3.4 Participatory approaches to reef management

A key element of any co-management process is participation, and participatory approaches to reef management are becoming increasingly important. However, participation can take many forms from a very extractive process to one of mutual collaboration. Campbell and Salagrama (2001) highlight varying degrees of involvement of both the community and outside professionals (Table 11), which vary according to: the balance of control between the community and outsiders; the stage at which interactions occur; the quality of those interactions; the perceived benefits derived by each side; and the level of empowerment developed within the community as a result.

The degree of participation applied in any intervention depends on local circumstances and the objectives of the intervention. In some cases, participation will evolve from initially being professional-led, into a community-led collaboration as capacity within the community develops (Box 38). Evidence suggests that participation early on in the process and significantly in negotiating the objectives of any intervention is critical to ensure its longer-term success. It is also important that participation is maintained throughout the process to ensure sustainability in the longer term.

Despite the many advantages of participation it is not a panacea to ensuring interventions succeed in preventing reef decline and assuring sustainable reef benefits for poor stakeholders. The success of participation will depend on when participation takes place in the process and how it is sustained. It will depend on the equitability of the participation process and how well the poorer and often hidden members of the community are included. It will also depend on the extent to which local systems of patronage are accommodated in the process. A DFID-funded study of participation in ICZM in the Puttalam district of Sri Lanka, highlighted the significance of patronage relations in influencing the outcomes of any intervention and stressed the need to understand and develop mechanisms to convert potentially negative impacts of patronage into a positive and dynamic force (Foell et al., 1999).

4.3.5 Sustainable coastal livelihoods

Whilst many efforts in ICZM, co-management and MPAs now incorporate participation they tend to do so to better achieve the functional aim of improved resource management. The DFIDfunded, policy research project Sustainable Coastal Livelihoods (SCL), based in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, has taken a people-centred approach to the coastal ecosystem. It explores the relationship between policy and poverty in the coast, identifies key problem areas and provides guidance on improved approaches. The SCL project uses the Sustainable Livelihoods Approach (SLA) as a means of understanding and addressing the complexity of coastal livelihoods and many of the lessons learnt from that project have informed and influenced the approach adopted during the fieldwork of the current Reef Livelihoods Assessment project. The SCL project identified the following key points for improved policy formulation and implementation in support of the coastal poor:
  • Adopting a vertically and horizontally integrated approach to policy formulation, planning and policy implementation that involves the full participation of the coastal poor.
  • The need for policy-informing research to fully engage with the poor and to develop much more collaborative approaches to the research process. • Using information effectively and systematically in informing and influencing the multitude of different stakeholders involved in coastal development to achieve appropriate behaviour change in line with agreed objectives.
  • Reorganising and building capacity in extension services to specifically target the poor.
  • Recognising the specific importance that common pool resources have for the poor and accommodating that into policies and plans.
  • ecognising the diversity and the value of community-based systems for control, coordination and communication and to incorporate these into policy-implementation measures.
  • Recognising and responding to the inability of the poor to take up most development opportunities that are provided before they are taken up by more advantaged members of society.
  • Approaching the issue of alternative livelihoods in systematic ways that build on a detailed understanding of the livelihoods of the poor and how those livelihoods fit into wider development processes.
  • Recognising the importance of mobility, migration and displacement in the livelihoods of the poor and catering for this.
  • Recognising the specific needs of the poor in disaster situations and to cater for those needs.
In addition to the broader approaches to coasts and reefs discussed above, there are a variety of much more specific policy instruments, as outlined in the following sections.

4.3.6 Information exchange

The communication and exchange of different forms of information between a wide range of different stakeholders is a major component of any intervention. It may take the form of monitoring and evaluating project impacts or change, in order to assist better management, or it may focus on awareness raising, to disseminate and exchange information amongst stakeholders.

4.3.6.1 Monitoring and evaluation

Coral reef-related monitoring programmes have been developed as part of wider international initiatives, such as the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN) and Reef Check, and also as part of local level coral reef interventions.

At global levels the focus of monitoring programmes has been on collecting information to better understand regional and global trends and to raise awareness of these changes amongst policy-makers within governments and donor agencies, in order to promote support for interventions to address these changes. At local levels monitoring and evaluating is an integral part of any management process, providing critical information to understand the associated impacts and effectiveness of an intervention and to allow the process to adapt and grow. In the GCRMN South Asia node, linkages between the global and local levels of monitoring have been strengthened, where local partners have adopted an ‘Inform globally, act locally’ approach to their work. This has resulted in greater local ownership of the GCRMN process in the South Asia region.

In order to fully understand change and the impacts of management interventions, monitoring must consider environmental, social, cultural, economic and political factors relating to both coral reefs and coral reef stakeholders. However, in line with the predisposition of many programmes towards coral reef conservation, monitoring and evaluation is often focused towards understanding the status of the coral reef resource and the impact of natural changes and human activities on the reef. Attention to the impacts of interventions on the livelihoods and well-being of local poor stakeholders has so far been less pronounced.

However, socio-economic monitoring of reef stakeholders is increasingly recognised as an important and critical component of our understanding and ability to effectively manage coral reef resources and ensure sustainable benefits to stakeholders. Indeed, socio-economic monitoring and the identification of suitable indicators to measure change, has been the focus of considerable debate and resulted in the production of a manual specifically targeting socio-economic assessments for coral reef management (Bunce et al., 2000). In East Africa a programme is currently underway to develop socio-economic monitoring in partnership with ongoing coral reef management projects (Box 39).

4.3.6.2 Awareness raising

Awareness raising is a major component of most interventions associated with preventing reef decline and is an important part of developing a better understanding of issues amongst stakeholders and as a means of creating a willingness to change attitudes and behaviours.

In the same way as monitoring has concentrated on the objectives of coral reef conservation, awareness raising is often focused on informing stakeholders of the negative impact of their actions on the health of the reef. It is also often used as a means of informing locals of the objectives of an intervention in order to gain their support. While these efforts may be successful in achieving what they set out to do they are likely to be less successful in eliciting behavioural change if they do not recognise and balance the diversity of needs of different stakeholders.

There is a growing recognition of the importance of adopting a more systematic approach to informing and influencing that responds to the diversity of stakeholders and their wide ranging needs and aspirations (Box 40).

4.3.7 Legislation

Another specific policy instrument is reef legislation. The use of legal instruments as a means of implementing fisheries management, MPAs, ICZM or collaborative management interventions is widespread. Many of the controls for managing fisheries, such as restrictions on gear, catch or controls over access to particular areas or species, are not new to coral reefs and are common amongst many traditional community-based management systems. However, whilst in the past the objectives of such measures may have had little to do with conservation or sustainable use, these are the primary goals of current legislation. In many cases, such legislation is now in the hands of local or national government and is often led by international initiatives promoting controls over trade in endangered species (e.g. CITES) or encouraging sustainable trade (Box 41).

The success of legal controls is largely determined by the strength of local support and is often compromised by the cost of enforcement and corruption. In some situations, changes in the law that do not also address reef-dependent livelihoods are in danger of criminalising the livelihoods of the poor with additional adverse consequences. Where the poor have no alternative but to continue with their existing, now illegal, livelihood the management objectives are unlikely to be achieved. Where legislation has been more effective local resource-users have been included in the development, communication and monitoring of regulations (Box 42). Such an approach increases local ownership of controls, however, it requires sufficient resources and support to implement at a local level and still remains open to corruption.
4.3.8 Economic valuations

Economic valuations of coral reef resources are increasingly undertaken as a means to influence national level policy-making. Calculating the economic value of coral reef resources to wider society and the national economy, enables planning and decision-making to incorporate ecosystem values in cost–benefit analyses for development (Box 43). In this way, the total value of coral reefs from tourism, fisheries and coastal protection has been compared against the cost of destructive fishing, coral mining, or against the benefits and costs of forestry activities (see Cesar, 2000, for examples). Economic valuation techniques have also been widely used in assessing the costs and benefits of establishing marine protected areas (see Cesar, 2000, for examples). In all cases, these models have provided strong economic justification for coral reef conservation and have highlighted the role of coral reefs in national economic development planning.

While at a national level this information has made considerable contributions towards the level of importance attributed to coral reefs by policy-makers, it is unable to expose the full value of reefs to people at a local level and in particular to the poor. As revealed in previous sections, a large part of the poor’s dependency on reefs is associated with subsistence and is linked to the role of the reef in their wider livelihood strategies. It is not surprising, therefore, that the value of reefs to the poor do not feature significantly in national level statistics and are difficult if not meaningless to define in terms of monetary values.

It is of importance, however, that the full benefits of reefs to the poor are more widely acknowledged at national levels in order that planning and decision-making can adequately address the needs of the poor in development. Without this acknowledgement there is the risk that economic values of reefs at national levels will eclipse the benefits of reefs to the poor in influencing policy-making and planning, and consequently resultant interventions are likely not to adequately address the needs of the poor.

4.3.9 Property rights

Attempts to limit the negative impacts of increasing coastal populations on poor reef stakeholders has focused largely on recognising and legitimising their rights to access reef benefits. This reflects a trend throughout fisheries management to address access rights in an attempt to overcome the increasing conflicts over scarce fisheries resources and the inability of many existing controls to sustainably manage open access fishery resources (FAO, 2000c). For poor small-scale fishers, the definition and enforcement of their rights to access reef resources is an important mechanism to control exploitation by outsiders and ensure reef benefits are sustained for the local community. However, as highlighted in the FAO State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture Report (2000c), problems are likely to arise with property rights systems in fisheries management relating to:
  • How the rights are defined – in other words, who has the right to use the resources of a fishery, which portion of the fishery may be used, and how and when it may be used;
  • How the rights are conferred and upheld;
  • How the rights create incentives for those involved – by virtue of the fact that they, to lesser or greater degrees, allocate potential benefits, which may or may not reinforce management objectives.
In addition, there is a need to cater for the livelihood aspirations of those excluded from the fishery and to date few systematic approaches have been used to address this issue.

Throughout the Pacific, access rights to reef resources are defined and controlled within the traditional customary marine tenure systems. However their application to contemporary coastal resources management is not necessarily a straightforward exercise and depends on their compatibility with government policy, in particular fisheries development policy; the clarity of definition and robustness of rights, in particular the determination of traditional boundaries and rights-holders; and their contribution to sustainable fisheries, which depends largely on the values and objectives of traditional systems of control (Ruddle, 1998).

4.3.10 Eco-tourism

In an effort to control the adverse effects of large-scale coastal tourism developments and to provide accessible alternative livelihood opportunities to local communities, sustainable tourism and eco-tourism are frequently promoted. These are often undertaken as part of collaborative management or ICZM initiatives, promoting small-scale, low impact activities which provide direct benefits to the locals involved. However, the extent to which the poorer members of a community may benefit from eco-tourism is unclear. Often such initiatives require those involved to have a certain level of language skills, or to be the owners of particular physical resources (boats or extra rooms). This may require extra support or skills training for poorer households, it may also not be a socially or culturally acceptable alternative for some households, e.g. female-headed households.

4.3.11 Environmental impact assessment

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a tool used to identify the ecological, social and economic impacts of a project prior to decision-making. It aims to predict impacts at an early stage in project planning and design, find ways and means to reduce adverse impacts, shape projects to suit the local environment and present the predictions and options to decision-makers. However, the extent to which EIA addresses the specific impact of a development on the poor is questionable, as is the extent to which decision-makers alter development designs in the general rush to capitalise on globalisation.

4.3.12 Reducing habitat destruction and enhancing habitat rehabilitation

Recognising the already significant populations and high levels of industrialisation and urbanisation in and upstream of coastal areas, the focus of many interventions is to attempt to mitigate the unavoidable negative impacts on coral reefs. In some cases, this has involved attempts to control sources of pollution, such as controlling sediment run-off by improving land use practices, or controlling nutrient and pesticide pollutants by promoting sustainable agricultural practices (Box 44).

In other cases, mitigating impacts on coral reefs have involved attempts to restore the environment. This may focus either on restoration of the reef habitat itself, or on specific reef species through stock enhancement programmes. In either case, considerable time, expertise and resources may be necessary, which will limit the scale of restoration. In many cases, restoration attempts are still at early and experimental stages and the longer-term success is uncertain. Where the negative impact of resource use or externalities, such as pollution, is high the success of reef habitat restoration will be constrained, without first reducing or eliminating these threats.
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