Capstone Title

Marine Protected Area Networks and Cetaceans: The Importance of Stakeholder Group Participation in Planning and Implementation

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. Coastal Zone Management

First Advisor

Caryn Self-Sullivan

Second Advisor

Nicholas Funicelli


Cetaceans can serve as flagship species to bring attention to broader conservation issues. Loopholes in legal protection and inadequate management, enforcement and compliance continue to impede recovery of endangered cetaceans. Creating networks of protected areas around frequently used activity centers (breeding, feeding, mating grounds,etc…) can increase survival and biological success of these species. Many stakeholder groups utilize these sites, any of which can hinder the success of development or implementation of a Marine Protected Area (MPA) network. Stakeholder involvement throughout the development and implementation process and mediation techniques can improve social acceptance of MPAs, resulting in more efficient and successful MPA networks. This capstone investigates the potential benefits of such involvement using case studies on the California MPA Network, Azores Marine Park, North Atlantic Humpback Whale Network, Pelagos Marine Mammal Sanctuary and Tortugas Ecological Reserves. Mediation techniques are also discussed to improve relationships between stakeholder groups during environmental planning. No definitive results were found connecting the participation of stakeholderstoecological or social benefits since there is no evaluation plan to determine this as of yet. In the future, evaluation plans should be made to not only determine ecological but also implementation success (i.e., enforcement rates and public attitude toward the MPAs). Increasing local involvement and support may help improve the chances of recoveryforseveral species, especially river dolphins. Modifications and/or strengthening of current MPAs are also necessary to properly carry out existing conservation strategies. With better-quality MPA networks, cetaceans and other organisms within their ecosystems will have better chances of survival.

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