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Ocean & Coastal Management 54 (2011) 687e695
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Ocean & Coastal Management
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/ocecoaman
Stakeholders’ expectations towards a proposed marine protected area:
A multi-criteria analysis of MPA performance criteria
Nadine Heck a, *, Philip Dearden b,1, Adrian McDonald c, 2
University of Leeds, School of Geography, Woodhouse Lane, Leeds, LS2 9JT, UK
University of Victoria, Department of Geography, PO Box 3060 STN CSC, Victoria, BC, V8W 3R4, Canada
University of Leeds, School of Geography, Woodhouse Lane, Leeds, LS2 9JT, UK
a r t i c l e i n f o
a b s t r a c t
Article history:
Available online 22 July 2011
In order to enable effective management of marine protected areas (MPAs), desired MPA achievements
need to be identified as early as possible for the development of relevant and clear management goals,
objectives and conservation targets. As the definition of MPA success is a social construct, the involvement of multiple groups in this process including government agencies, stakeholders, and other interested parties is increasingly advocated. This study investigates diverse groups’ opinions on the
performance of a proposed National Marine Conservation Area (NMCA) on the West coast of Canada
prior to its establishment. In order to analyse and quantify the importance of MPA performance criteria
among multiple stakeholder groups, the Analytical Hierarchy Process (AHP) is applied. Findings reveal
that marine stakeholder groups have distinct preferences for future MPA performance. Most differences
are obvious between user and non-user groups. The study also finds that respondents’ characteristics
other than stakeholder groups affiliations influence expectations towards the proposed MPA including
livelihood dependency on the marine environment, amount of time spent in the area, and engagement in
fishing activities.
Ó 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
1. Introduction
Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are increasingly established
worldwide as one of several available tools for the management of
coastal and ocean areas (Toropova et al., 2010). As management
objectives for any MPA depend on the specific ecological, cultural or
socioeconomic problems that an MPA is meant to improve, MPAs
vary greatly in purpose, type, size and shape and the concept
cannot be generalized (Agardy et al., 2003). When designing a new
MPA, the local context thus needs to be well understood and taken
into consideration in the development of relevant MPA goals and
objectives (Wells and Mangubhai, 2005; Alder et al., 2002). In
addition, clear statements need to be developed, ideally in the early
planning stage, indicating what a new MPA is supposed to achieve
and how its effectiveness will be demonstrated over time (Day,
2008). Identifying desired MPA performance in the beginning of
the planning process increases the chance that established MPAs
* Corresponding author. Tel.: þ44 1133433312.
E-mail addresses: tnm_heck@yahoo.de (N. Heck), pdearden@mail.geog.uvic.ca
(P. Dearden), a.t.mcdonald@leeds.ac.uk (A. McDonald).
Tel.: þ1 250 721 7335.
Tel.: þ44 113 34 33344.
0964-5691/$ e see front matter Ó 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
will not just become so called ‘paper parks’ (Thompson et al., 2008).
Early definition of desired MPA performance also allows collection
of baseline data that can be used for measuring the ‘real’ performance of a protected area, defined as the difference between the
initial state and the achieved outcomes due to the establishment of
a new MPA (Day, 2008).
As any MPA is based on a set of human-made rules and regulations (Pomeroy et al., 2007), the definition of desired MPA
performance is also inherently a social construct (Himes, 2007b;
Hockings, 2006). Expectations towards MPA management often
differ among coastal user groups depending on their background,
values, and affiliation (Himes, 2007b). Desired MPA performance
thus should ideally be set by a combination of government agencies
and local stakeholders (Syms and Carr, 2001; Dahl-Tacconi, 2005;
Himes, 2007b). Stakeholder involvement in the early stages of the
planning process is particularly useful in order to understand
concerns towards the establishment of a MPA (Salz and Loomis,
2004). Stakeholder inclusion further provides insights into local
issues that need to be addressed by a new MPA (Charles and
Wilson, 2008), signifies social acceptability and support for
a future MPA (Thomassin et al., 2010), and increases the likelihood
that policy decisions are based upon accurate understanding of the
local social and environmental condition (Pomeroy et al., 2007).
N. Heck et al. / Ocean & Coastal Management 54 (2011) 687e695
While the importance of stakeholder involvement in MPA
management is recorded in a growing body of literature (Borad and
Sanchirico, 2008; Elliott et al., 2001; Pollnac et al., 2001), literature
on stakeholders’ opinions on MPA performance in existing MPAs
(Himes, 2007b; Webb et al., 2004; Suman et al., 1999), and their
involvement in the development of MPA performance indicators
(Dahl-Tacconi, 2005; Pajaro et al., 2010) is still limited, and particularly scarce with respect to proposed MPAs (Thomassin et al.,
2010; Salz and Loomis, 2004).
Using a case study approach, this study focuses on local opinions on MPA performance prior to the establishment of a new MPA.
In order to quantify the importance given to a number of MPA
performance criteria among diverse groups, the Analytical Hierarchy Process (AHP) was applied. The method was developed by
Saaty (1980) and is one of several multi-criteria decision making
techniques (Kiker et al., 2005). The approach is seen as particularly
useful for examining tradeoffs in situations when multiple
management objectives cannot be optimised simultaneously
(Mardle et al., 2004), which is often the case in MPA management
(Wattage and Mardle, 2006). So far, the AHP has been applied for
different aspects of fisheries management (eg Innes and Pascoe,
2010; Leung et al., 1998; Mardle et al., 2004; Mardle and Pascoe,
1999), social acceptance of aquaculture (Whitmarsh and
Palmieri, 2009) and stakeholder preferences for conservation
versus development of wetlands (Wattage and Mardle, 2005). Its
application for MPA management, however, is very limited.
Previous studies applied the framework for identifying management options (Fernandes et al., 1999), performance criteria for
existing MPAs (Fernandes et al., 1999; Himes, 2007a) and to
identify MPA zoning options (Villa et al., 2002). A novelty in this
study is the application of the AHP for eliciting the importance of
MPA performance criteria for a new MPA prior to its establishment.
Results provide information for the development of goals and
objectives for the proposed MPA based on local stakeholders’
expectations. By comparing the opinions of multiple groups, the
study also increases the current understanding of diverse marine
stakeholders’ expectations towards MPA management. In addition,
the study investigates how far characteristics such as livelihood
dependency, amount of time spent in the area, and engagement in
fishing activities influence local expectations towards MPA
2. Study site
The Southern Strait of Georgia (SSG) is located on the Southwest
coast of British Columbia, between Vancouver Island and the BC
mainland (Fig.1). In 2003, a National Park Reserve was established in
the Gulf Islands protecting approximately 35 km2 terrestrial land
spread out over 16 islands, and about 26 km2 fragmented near-shore
areas (Parks Canada, 2010). In order to provide more comprehensive
marine protection, the establishment of a National Marine Conservation Area (NMCA) is proposed covering the waters surrounding
the Southern Gulf Islands encompassing about 900 km2.
The marine environment in the area is rated as one of the
world’s most diverse temperate water regions (Davenne and
Masson, 2001; Parks Canada, 2009a). Natural features include
rocky reefs, and there are over 200 species of fish, hundreds of
seabirds, about 500 species of plant life, and approximately 1500
species of invertebrates (Georgia Strait Alliance, 2008). Resident
marine mammals in the SSG include seals, otters, sea lions, killer
whales, and porpoises. Gray, mink and humpback whales migrate
through the area (Parks Canada, 2009a; Georgia Strait Alliance,
2008). The area also provides habitats for multiple species at risk
such as northern abalone (Haliotis kamtschatkana), great blue heron
(Ardea herodias fannini), and a population of southern resident
orcas (Orcinus orca), that have declined an approximate 20% over
the last decade (Georgia Strait Alliance, 2008).
Due to its close proximity to several large population centres
including Vancouver, Victoria, and across the US border Washington State, the SSG is one of the most heavily used waterways in
Canada. Regular ferry services exist in the area, and major shipping
lanes run just outside of the boundaries of the proposed NMCA.
Other commercial activities include fishing and crabbing, which
operate throughout the year, shellfish aquaculture, and a large
number of commercial whale watching vessels that are operating
in the area especially during the summer months. The region is also
extremely popular for a variety of marine-based recreation activities such as recreational fishing, scuba diving, kayaking, sailing, and
power cruising (Gray, 2008).
The proposed NMCA in Southern Strait of Georgia is one of five
identified future NMCA areas in British Columbia that will be part of
a NMCA system (Parks Canada, 2003). While Parks is responsible
for establishing and managing the proposed NMCA, the agency will
need to collaborate with a number of federal and provincial
agencies such as Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Transport Canada,
Environment Canada, and the provincial government due to overlapping jurisdictions (Gagne, 2000). NMCAs are therefore different
to terrestrial parks, as several agencies will have jurisdictions
within these conservation areas (Dearden and Mitchell, 2005)
thereby increasing the need for interagency collaboration.
3. Methodology
3.1. Developing the AHP hierarchy
The Analytical Hierarchy Process (AHP) is based on converting
subjective assessments of relative importance to a set of overall
scores or weights (Dodgson et al., 2009) and is applicable to qualitative and/or quantitative attributes (Ananda and Herath, 2003).
The method is based on structuring a problem in a hierarchical
form and eliciting judgements for individual criteria in the form of
pair-wise comparisons using a nine-point scale (Munda, 2008).
This approach simplifies multi-dimensional scaling problems into
one-dimensional ones (Saaty and Vargas, 2000) as it reduces
decision-making to pair-wise comparisons (Himes, 2007a).
Weights are always derived in the form of trade-offs, not of
importance of coefficients (Munda, 2008). As all objectives together
sum up to 1 or 100%, the AHP reveals preferences that individuals
hold for one objective relative to another, making the nature of the
trade-off between the different objectives transparent (Whitmarsh
and Wattage 2006) The AHP, however, does not allow including
a high number of criteria, which would require a very high number
of comparisons and thus heavily depends on the structure of the
decision problem (Ananda and Herath, 2003). The methodology is
based on several stages including (1) the development of an
objective hierarchy, (2) a pairwise comparison survey to elicit
individual’s preferences towards objectives, (3) the analysis of the
results, and (4) the aggregation of homogeneous sets of preferences
for evaluating alternative management strategies (Wattage and
Mardle, 2006; Innes and Pascoe, 2010).
Performance criteria for the proposed NMCA in this study were
developed based on information provided in workshops and open
houses that were undertaken by Parks Canada as part of the
feasibility study in the Southern Strait of Georgia. This study aimed
on determining whether the establishment of the proposed NMCA
is practical and desirable, both from a policy and administrative
perspective as well as in terms of public support (Parks Canada,
2009a). Among the aims of the study was the identification of
future NMCA goals and objectives based on a common local vision,
and the identification of marine research and monitoring
N. Heck et al. / Ocean & Coastal Management 54 (2011) 687e695
Fig. 1. Location of proposed National Marine Conservation Area.
requirements for long-term achievement of these goals and
objectives (Parks Canada, 2009a). In order to elicit the local vision
for the NMCA, participants in workshop events were asked how
they would like to describe the area in 25 years from now. For the
purpose of this study, the most frequently mentioned environmental, social, economic, and management criteria were included
and structured in a hierarchy (Fig. 2).
3.2. Survey
In order to elicit the importance given to future MPA performance criteria, a questionnaire-based survey was undertaken. The
survey was administered during a five months period between 2nd
July- 6th December 2009. Seven groups participated in the study
including two commercial user groups, marine tourism operators
and commercial fishermen, two recreational user groups, boaters
and recreational fishers, the main governing agency, Parks Canada,
NGO members, and local governments. These groups were chosen
since they also took part in workshops and open-houses for the
proposed NMCA. Since MPA criteria in this study are based on
information derived from these events, similar groups were
included in the survey for better comparison.
Due to small numbers, a census sampling was attempted for
wildlife tourism operators, Parks Canada staff, Island Trust
members (local government) and NGOs. Commercial fishermen,
recreational boaters and recreational fishermen were approached
randomly at regional marinas and harbours during the five months
period. The questionnaire was primarily administered face-to-face.
Tourism operators, park managers, and NGO members were
approached at their place of work. Recreational boaters and
recreational fishermen were sampled in 6 marinas in or adjacent to
the proposed NMCA. Commercial fishermen were approached in 7
N. Heck et al. / Ocean & Coastal Management 54 (2011) 687e695
Fig. 2. MPA criteria hierarchy for the proposed NMCA.
commercial fishing harbours in the area. For NGOs, local government members belonging to the Island Trust and Parks Canada
staff, the questionnaire was also distributed via mail and as an email attachment, which was then mailed back by respondents.
Response rates were high with 88% for the face-to-face approach,
88.9% for mail and 100% for e-mail. Out of 186 distributed questionnaires, a total of 161 questionnaires were completed including
32 tourism operators, 11 managers, 30 recreational boaters, 40
recreational fishermen, 20 commercial fishermen, 17 NGO
members and 11 local government members.
The self-administered questionnaire contained a closed question asking about the importance of a set of performance criteria on
a 9-point AHP scale. Pairwise comparisons were made between the
four main criteria categories, environmental, social, economic, and
management, and between criteria under each ‘parental’ criterion
(Fig. 3). This approach was chosen to limit comparison choices and
increase consistency ratios. In total, 31 pairwise comparisons were
included using the 9-point scale. The scale is defined as follows: (1)
indifferent, (3) weak preference or moderately important, (5)
preference or more important, (7) strong preferences or strongly
important, (9) very strong preferences or extremely more important (Mardle et al., 2004).
The next section of the questionnaire covered closed questions
about personal information including stakeholder group affiliation,
livelihood dependency on the marine environment in the proposed
NMCA area, age, familiarity with the marine environment, the
amount of time spent in proposed NMCA area, place of residency
and fishing activities undertaken in the proposed conservation area.
An open-ended question for comments was provided at the end.
Data analysis was undertaken with Expert Choice 11.5. Due to
the nature of pair-wise comparison, a certain degree of inconsistency in respondents’ choices is expected in the relative scale of
importance between objectives, their rank or both (Innes and
Pascoe, 2010). Usually, a consistency ratio of up to 10% or 20% is
accepted (Mardle and Pascoe, 1999; Leung et al., 1998; Mardle et al.,
2004; Innes and Pascoe, 2010; Wattage and Mardle, 2005). Otherwise a re-examination of judgements should be done. For the
purpose of this study, a consistency index of up to 15% was
accepted. Based on this criterion, 110 out of 161 returned questionnaires (68.3%) were included in the subsequent analysis. Group
weights were derived based on the arithmetic mean of individual
weights within each group (Innes and Pascoe, 2010). Differences in
mean importance weights derived from the AHP were analysed
using ANOVA. Spearman rank correlation was applied to
N. Heck et al. / Ocean & Coastal Management 54 (2011) 687e695
Fig. 3. Example of pairwise comparison.
investigate the influence of stakeholders’ livelihood dependency on
the marine environment in the proposed NMCA area, the amount of
time spent in the area during the year, and engagement in fishing
activities on the importance given to NMCA criteria.
4. Results
4.1. Local expectations towards proposed NMCA
The results of the AHP analysis indicate that the proposed NMCA
should mainly achieve environmental improvements in the SSG.
Social enjoyment and education, local economic benefits, and
management efficiency were given significantly lower importance
weights (Fig. 4).
The analysis of criteria in subcategories provided slightly
different results compared to findings in the main category and
highlighted the additional importance of local economic benefits
(Fig. 5). Greater importance was given to local income from tourism
within the NMCA than to income for local fisheries, which was also
less important than an increase in fish resources in the area.
Comments suggested to ‘promote tourism as an alternative
economic driver to traditional fishing industries’. These findings
suggest a focus on non-extractive use within the NMCA and to
facilitate a shift in local economies towards less extractive businesses. Among environmental criteria, habitat protection, less
pollution, and an increase in marine mammals seem most important. Comments clarify that pollution from a range of sources need
to be reduced such as recreational and commercial vessels, local
industries, and sewage disposal from nearby towns. Among marine
mammals, an increase of orcas was pointed out in comments. The
analysis further shows that all management criteria were given low
Fig. 4. Aggregated importance of MPA performance criteria (1st level).
weights, especially stakeholders’ inclusion. Only fishery regulations
and enforcement of future regulations was given some importance,
even though the NMCA Act does not focus on fishery management
and enforcement coverage in particular. Comments clarified that
commercial fishermen were most concerned with enforcement of
fishery regulations. Recreational fishermen and tourism operators
stressed the importance of enforcing whale watching operators in
order to minimize disturbances of whales.
4.2. Differences in expected MPA performance based on stakeholder
group affiliation
Differences in local expectations towards the NMCA were
obvious based on stakeholder group affiliation. While all groups
judged environmental improvements as most important, their
importance weights were different (Fig. 6). Non-user groups
including staff members of Parks Canada, NGO participants and
local governments almost entirely focused on environmental
improvements. The four user groups including tourism operators,
and boaters, recreational and commercial fishermen also weighted
economic criteria in particular as important. This finding suggests
that user groups had a broader understanding of future NMCA
effectiveness and more diverse expectations towards the proposed
NMCA than non-user groups in this study.
Opinions were even more distinct for individual NMCA criteria
in subcategories (Table 1). The single most important performance
criterion for tourism operators, recreational fishermen and
commercial fishermen was local economic benefits and not an
environmental criterion, which would have been expected based
on findings on the main AHP level. The importance given to
economic benefits was also in contrast to the opinions of Parks
Canada staff. Income for local fisheries, for example, was more
than twice as important to commercial fishermen compared to
Parks Canada staff members. The same applies to income from
tourism, which was given about twice the importance weight by
tourism operators than Parks Canada staff. Compared to
commercial users, Parks Canada staff members expect the new
NMCA to focus mainly on maintaining a high level of biodiversity
in the area and the restoration of habitats. An increase in fish
resources in the area was of greatest importance to local governments, not fishermen. Recreational boaters expect the NMCA
primarily to reduce the amount of marine pollution in the area and
to restore important habitats, which are both partly caused by
recreational boating itself.
Differences were also obvious between recreational and
commercial fishermen. Recreational fishermen expect recreational
opportunities more than other groups and highly valued local
income from tourism, which compared to the opinions of tourism
operators and recreational boaters. Commercial fishermen put
more importance on income for local fisheries, enforcement of
regulations, reduced pollution, and habitat restoration. The type of
N. Heck et al. / Ocean & Coastal Management 54 (2011) 687e695
Fig. 5. Aggregated importance of MPA performance criteria (level 2).
fishery activity, commercial or recreational, thus seemed to influence expectations of these two extractive user groups towards the
The findings overall demonstrate that local stakeholder groups
have distinct preferences for future NMCA performance. Differences were not just obvious between the governing agency, Parks
Canada, and local stakeholder groups but also among multiple
stakeholder groups themselves.
importance given to recreational opportunities. Engagement in
fishing reduced the importance of habitat restoration but increased
the importance of local benefits for local fisheries, enforcement and
the existence of more fishery regulations.
These findings demonstrate that not just stakeholder group
affiliation influenced local expectations towards future NMCA
performance, but also characteristics such as livelihood dependency, amount of time spent in the proposed NMCA area, and
engagement in fishing activities.
4.3. Influence of stakeholder characteristics on MPA performance
5. Discussion
Further analysis revealed that characteristics other than group
affiliation influenced local opinions on future NMCA performance
(Table 2). A high livelihood dependency on the marine environment in the SSG reduced the importance of environmental
improvements and increased the importance of local benefits from
tourism, and the implementation of more fishery regulations and
their enforcement. A high frequency of use increased the
Desired MPA performance is ideally identified in the early stages
of the planning process in order to develop relevant and clear MPA
goals, objectives and management targets (Wells and Mangubhai,
2005; Alder et al., 2002). As the definition of desired MPA performance is a social construct, its definition should ideally be set by
multiple groups including government agencies, stakeholders, and
other interested parties (Syms and Carr, 2001; Dahl-Tacconi, 2005;
Fig. 6. Criteria importance weights of multiple groups (level one) *p < 0.5, **p < 0.01 (ANOVA). N. Heck et al. / Ocean & Coastal Management 54 (2011) 687e695 693 Table 1 Average weights for MPA performance criteria of different stakeholder groups (mean value). Environment** More fish* High biodiversity** Less pollution Habitats restored* Social Scientific data User knowledge Recreation* Economic* Fisheries income** Tourism income* Management Enforcement Monitoring Stakeholder inclusion Information Fishery regulations Tourism regulations Tourism operators Boaters Recreational fishermen Commercial fishermen NGOs Local government Parks Canada 0.403 0.100 0.101 0.079 0.124 0.199 0.084 0.077 0.038 0.195 0.061 0.156 0.203 0.050 0.025 0.020 0.036 0.045 0.029 0.421 0.089 0.074 0.121 0.123 0.196 0.082 0.077 0.037 0.190 0.078 0.111 0.199 0.040 0.027 0.026 0.027 0.046 0.026 0.367 0.103 0.084 0.090 0.091 0.218 0.073 0.079 0.065 0.212 0.099 0.113 0.202 0.039 0.028 0.023 0.031 0.051 0.031 0.412 0.075 0.081 0.135 0.122 0.158 0.054 0.068 0.037 0.208 0.147 0.061 0.223 0.066 0.024 0.019 0.032 0.066 0.016 0.511 0.077 0.125 0.125 0.176 0.186 0.071 0.094 0.021 0.146 0.065 0.081 0.157 0.032 0.024 0.031 0.022 0.029 0.019 0.590 0.173 0.160 0.114 0.142 0.156 0.067 0.071 0.018 0.095 0.040 0.056 0.158 0.043 0.017 0.020 0.018 0.028 0.034 0.547 0.084 0.156 0.128 0.179 0.146 0.075 0.048 0.023 0.126 0.060 0.066 0.182 0.032 0.035 0.027 0.030 0.032 0.025 *p < 0.05 (ANOVA); **p < 0.01 (ANOVA). Himes, 2007b). Consultations of stakeholders before the establishment of a new MPA is in fact a central point in the creation of National Marine Conservation Areas in Canada (NMCAs) (Fisheries and Oceans Canada, 2005; Parks Canada, 2002). This study extends the workshop and open-house approach taken by Parks Canada as part of the public consultation process in the Southern Strait of Georgia. Workshop reports provided information on expected NMCA performance and allowed the identification of a set of NMCA performance criteria. These events did not provide any insights into differences in the opinions of participating groups. This study addresses this issue by eliciting multiple groups’ opinions on future MPA performance using the Analytical Hierarchy Process (AHP) methodology. The AHP analysis reveals that the proposed NMCA should primarily focus environmental improvements. Social enjoyment, local economic benefits and management efficiency are given considerably lower importance weights. The analysis of criteria in subcategories points to the additional importance of financial benefits for local economies besides environmental improvements. While potential goals under the NMCA program include the Table 2 Correlation between stakeholders’ characteristics and expected performance criteria. Environment More fish High biodiversity Reduced pollution Restored habitats Social Research Education Recreation Economic Fisheries income Tourism income Management Enforcement Monitoring Stakeholder participation Information Fisheries regulations Tourism regulations Dependency Time spent in area Fishing L0.220* 0.051 L0.234* 0.041 L0.123 0.011 L0.044 0.024 0.080 0.072 L1.22 0.210** 0.023 0.133* L0.090 L0.150* 0.043 0.184** L0.204 L0.170 0.106 L0.024 0.015 L0.056 0.158 0.088 0.042 0.206* 0.080 L0.084 0.132 0.024 L0.062 L0.017 L0.211 0.021 0.053 0.110 L0.217** 0.013 L0.133 L0.093 L0.202* L0.119 L0.250 L0.205* L0.017 0.231* 0.025* 0.146 0.107 0.057* 0.043 0.158 0.052 0.061** 0.042 The bold values represents *p Purchase answer to see full attachment

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