Policy Priorities in Puget Sound: An Analysis of MPA Implementation
Masters, Jonathan Kyle
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Currently there are 110 officially recognized marine protected areas (MPAs) in Puget Sound that cover approximately 15% of the marine environment. This analysis focuses on how the natural resource management agencies of Washington State have implemented MPA policy and the degree to which experts perceive them to be effective. The large number of MPAs and multiple governing agencies involved in their management indicate different goals are being pursued. This study used a combination of purposive and snowball sampling to develop a candidate pool of informants. Thirty-four qualitative interviews were conducted in 2014 of federal and state policy managers, staffers, scientists, as well as nonprofit experts and members of the epistemic community. Interview transcripts were analyzed in conjunction with a Sabatier-Mazmanian policy implementation framework to identify gaps. Results indicate that some Puget Sound MPAs suffer from an inadequate or consistent justification for their existence, resource limitations stemming from the negative perceptions of senior leaders hampering monitoring and outreach, and the challenging, legally-mandated co-management process. This suggests implementation of MPA policy is hindered by a lack of leadership and support. Also, policy has not consistently utilized appropriate site selection protocol or engaged co-managers on their concerns regarding spatial conservation tools. Implementation gaps are likely to remain until MPA policy follows from specific goals and needs, and levels of support are unlikely to increase unless public managers can unequivocally point to measurable improvements stemming from the policy.
- Marine affairs