School of Natural and Environmental Sciences


Marine Protected Area (MPA) governance in Thailand

An interdisciplinary analysis of a central problem in the management of marine resources – how to protect marine ecosystems whilst ensuring the livelihoods of local communities

An increasingly common solution to this problem is the establishment of marine protected areas (MPAs). But how well do MPAs perform in delivering both ecological protection and socio-economic well-being? And more specifically; how do MPAs address stakeholder needs? What forces shape the configuration and ecological expectations of MPAs?  How are these ecological expectations being met and how can stakeholders partake in improving these outcomes?

In the extensive literature on MPAs in tropical waters, there is considerable controversy over their ecological and socio-economic effectiveness, and the factors that influence that effectiveness. Whilst terrestrial parks have delivered a measure of success, the achievements of MPAs are proving more difficult to estimate because of the open nature of marine ecosystems and our limited scientific understanding of the spatial scales of marine populations. Some writers arguably claim that MPAs are essential for the protection of marine species and habitats and that enhancements from ‘spillover’ effects are added benefits for regional fisheries.

The social-economic dimensions of MPAs have been gaining increased attention due to widely differing opinions on successes at meeting livelihood needs. The implementation of tourism into MPAs and the economic benefits from the range of services that are needed to support the market are seen as a panacea to rural economies, but conflicts of interest between stakeholders have increased in many MPAs due to the inequitable distribution of economic gain, costs and responsibilities as well as the resulting degradation from tourism development. Two of the more dominant factors identified for improving the social-economic performance in MPAs are good governance and stakeholder participation in their management. 

This project aims to assess how the Thai national park system is addressing these issues with stakeholder participation and how their efforts are contributing to resource protection for current and future generations.