Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

Optimizing enforcement and compliance in offshore marine protected areas: a case study from Cocos Island, Costa Rica

  • Adrian Arias (a1), Robert L. Pressey (a1), Rhondda E. Jones (a2), Jorge G. Álvarez-Romero (a1) and Joshua E. Cinner (a1)...

Illegal exploitation of resources is a cause of environmental degradation worldwide. The effectiveness of conservation initiatives such as marine protected areas relies on users' compliance with regulations. Although compliance can be motivated by social norms (e.g. peer pressure and legitimacy), some enforcement is commonly necessary. Enforcement is expensive, particularly in areas far from land, but costs can be reduced by optimizing enforcement. We present a case study of how enforcement could be optimized at Cocos Island National Park, Costa Rica, an offshore protected area and World Heritage Site. By analysing patrol records we determined the spatial and temporal distribution of illegal fishing and its relationship to patrol effort. Illegal fishing was concentrated on a seamount within the Park and peaked during the third year-quarter, probably as a result of oceanographic conditions. The lunar cycle in conjunction with the time of year significantly influenced the occurrence of incursions. The predictability of illegal fishing in space and time facilitates the optimization of patrol effort. Repeat offenders are common in the Park and we suggest that unenforced regulations and weak governance are partly to blame. We provide recommendations for efficient distribution of patrol effort in space and time, establishing adequate governance and policy, and designing marine protected areas to improve compliance. Our methods and recommendations are applicable to other protected areas and managed natural resources.

Corresponding author
(Corresponding author) E-mail
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

A. Arias & S.G. Sutton (2013) Understanding recreational fishers’ compliance with no-take zones in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Ecology and Society, 18, 18.

N.C. Ban , V. Adams , R.L. Pressey & J. Hicks (2011) Promise and problems for estimating management costs of marine protected areas. Conservation Letters, 4, 241252.

F. Berkes , T.P. Hughes , R.S. Steneck , J.A. Wilson , D.R. Bellwood , B. Crona (2006) Globalization, roving bandits, and marine resources. Science, 311, 15571558.

S.J. Campbell , A.S. Hoey , J. Maynard , T. Kartawijaya , J. Cinner , N.A.J. Graham & A.H. Baird (2012) Weak compliance undermines the success of no-take zones in a large government-controlled marine protected area. PLoS ONE, 7(11), e50074.

K.L.F. Davis , G.R. Russ , D.H. Williamson & R.D. Evans (2004) Surveillance and poaching on inshore reefs of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Coastal Management, 32, 373387.

G.J. Edgar , R.D. Stuart-Smith , T.J. Willis , S. Kininmonth , S.C. Baker , S. Banks (2014) Global conservation outcomes depend on marine protected areas with five key features. Nature, 506, 216220.

P.C. Fiedler & L.D. Talley (2006) Hydrography of the eastern tropical Pacific: a review. Progress in Oceanography, 69, 143180.

E.T. Game , H.S. Grantham , A.J. Hobday , R.L. Pressey , A.T. Lombard , L.E. Beckley (2009) Pelagic protected areas: the missing dimension in ocean conservation. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 24, 360369.

M.C. Gavin , J.N. Solomon & S.G. Blank (2010) Measuring and monitoring illegal use of natural resources. Conservation Biology, 24, 89100.

K.M. Gjerde , D. Currie , K. Wowk & K. Sack (2013) Ocean in peril: reforming the management of global ocean living resources in areas beyond national jurisdiction. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 74, 540551.

N.A.J. Graham , M.D. Spalding & C.R.C. Sheppard (2010) Reef shark declines in remote atolls highlight the need for multi-faceted conservation action. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, 20, 543548.

N.A. Gribble & J.W.A. Robertson (1998) Fishing effort in the far northern section cross shelf closure area of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park: the effectiveness of area-closures. Journal of Environmental Management, 52, 5367.

M. Hauck & M. Kroese (2006) Fisheries compliance in South Africa: a decade of challenges and reform 1994–2004. Marine Policy, 30, 7483.

R. Hilborn , P. Arcese , M. Borner , J. Hando , G. Hopcraft , M. Loibooki (2006) Effective enforcement in a conservation area. Science, 314, 1266.

G. Hønneland (2000) Compliance in the Barents Sea fisheries. How fishermen account for conformity with rules. Marine Policy, 24, 1119.

J.B. Kellner , I. Tetreault , S.D. Gaines & R.M. Nisbet (2007) Fishing the line near marine reserves in single and multispecies fisheries. Ecological Applications, 17, 10391054.

E.J. Knapp , D. Rentsch , J. Schmitt , C. Lewis & S. Polasky (2010) A tale of three villages: choosing an effective method for assessing poaching levels in western Serengeti, Tanzania. Oryx, 44, 178184.

J.P. Kritzer (2004) Effects of noncompliance on the success of alternative designs of marine protected-area networks for conservation and fisheries management. Conservation Biology, 18, 10211031.

N. Leader-Williams , S.D. Albon & P.S.M. Berry (1990) Illegal exploitation of black rhinoceros and elephant populations: patterns of decline, law enforcement and patrol effort in Luangwa Valley, Zambia. Journal of Applied Ecology, 27, 10551087.

M. Lowry , D. Williams & Y. Metti (2007) Lunar landings—relationship between lunar phase and catch rates for an Australian gamefish-tournament fishery. Fisheries Research, 88, 1523.

S. Mangubhai , M. Saleh , Suprayitno , A. Muljadi , Purwanto , K.L. Rhodes & K. Tjandra (2011) Do not stop: the importance of seamless monitoring and enforcement in an Indonesian marine protected area. Journal of Marine Biology, 2011, 11.

T. Morato , S.D. Hoyle , V. Allain & S.J. Nicol (2010) Seamounts are hotspots of pelagic biodiversity in the open ocean. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 107, 97079711.

E. Ostrom (1990) Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.

J.K. Parrish (1999) Using behavior and ecology to exploit schooling fishes. Environmental Biology of Fishes, 55, 157181.

M.A. Quesada-Alpízar (2006) Participation and fisheries management in Costa Rica: from theory to practice. Marine Policy, 30, 641650.

E.J.Z. Robinson , A.M. Kumar & H.J. Albers (2010) Protecting developing countries' forests: enforcement in theory and practice. Journal of Natural Resources Policy Research, 2, 2538.

L.M. Song , Y. Zhang , L.X. Xu , W.X. Jiang & J.Q. Wang (2008) Environmental preferences of longlining for yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares) in the tropical high seas of the Indian Ocean. Fisheries Oceanography, 17, 239253.

U.R. Sumaila , J. Alder & H. Keith (2006) Global scope and economics of illegal fishing. Marine Policy, 30, 696703.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

  • ISSN: 0030-6053
  • EISSN: 1365-3008
  • URL: /core/journals/oryx
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 34
Total number of PDF views: 200 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 643 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 29th June 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.