Science Advisory Report  2012/081

Guidance on the Formulation of Conservation Objectives and Identification of Indicators, Monitoring Protocols and Strategies for Bioregional Marine Protected Area Networks


  • Developing measurable Conservation Objectives and identifying the appropriate indicators, monitoring protocols and strategies to evaluate the effectiveness of MPA networks in achieving their Conservation Objectives are important steps in the establishment of bioregional marine protected area (MPA) networks.
  • There are three commonly referenced levels of specificity for Conservation Objectives, going from the overarching Conservation Goals (e.g., National Network Goal 1, from the National Framework for Canada’s Network of Marine Protected Areas), to the more specific Strategic Conservation Objectives and to the Operational Conservation Objectives.
  • Operational Conservation Objectives (which are more specific and measurable) are emphasized in this paper, rather than ‘higher level’ Conservation Goals or Strategic Conservation Objectives. These Operational Objectives should describe the OUTCOMES expected if MPA network design and management are successful.
  • Operational Conservation Objectives must address the concepts of: Biodiversity, Ecosystem Function, and Special Natural Features, which are the key components of the “conservation” goal (National Network Goal 1).
  • The accepted design features of MPA networks, i.e., Replication, Connectivity among MPAs, and Representativity, should give a network a high likelihood of delivering the objectives set for it, and should be evaluated, but they are not Conservation Objectives in their own right.
  • Guidance provided regarding the selection of indicators outlines the functions and properties of indicators, it suggests steps for their identification, and it also identifies links to the development of monitoring protocols and strategies. In the MPA and MPA network context, indicators are used to evaluate where the ecological system is with respect to achieving a particular objective. Failure to identify indicators that are relevant to their corresponding Operational Conservation Objectives could result in failure in the ability to evaluate the effectiveness of the MPA or the MPA network.
  • Monitoring protocols describe the specific methodologies required for the monitoring while monitoring strategies are those avenues employed to undertake the monitoring protocols. Monitoring protocols and strategies are specific to the indicator in question, therefore, only general guiding principles are provided in the context of MPA networks. The importance of considering community-based monitoring is highlighted.
  • Specific guidance on evaluating the effectiveness of MPA networks is premature, but must involve evaluation of both, whether Conservation Objectives have been met and whether design features have been adequately incorporated into the network.

This Science Advisory Report is from the Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat, national advisory meeting of 3-5 of October 2012 on Guidance on the Formulation of Conservation Objectives and Identification of Indicators, Monitoring Protocols and Strategies for Bioregional Marine Protected Area Networks. Additional publications from this process will be posted as they become available on the DFO Science Advisory Schedule.

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