Perceptions, preferences, and planning: managing coral reefs for people and biodiversity

Presented by:  Lydia Teh, Fisheries Centre, University of British Columbia, Canada

Where:  Building 19 (new Centre building) Room #106, JCU, Townsville

When:  Friday 7th Dec; 09.30-10.30

Abstract: Effective coral reef governance is built on understanding human-environment relationships, and people’s ability to adapt to changes in marine socio-ecological systems. Ignoring this can result in low user compliance with management interventions. I address this issue by focusing on the role of fishers’ perceptions in marine spatial planning. Using mental mapping with semi-structured interviews, I investigate biophysical, social, and economic factors that define fishers’ preferred fishing grounds in a small-scale reef fishery. Attachment to fishing grounds underpins a livelihood strategy of ‘staying secure but staying poor’, and challenges the commonly held assertion that fishing effort can be ‘redistributed’. These results emphasize fishers’ vulnerability not only to environmental change, but also to poorly designed interventions. I demonstrate how these qualitative insights can be quantified and incorporated in a marine protected area zoning tool, in which site prioritisation is determined by combining fishers’ spatial preferences and ecological criteria. My research highlights the importance of accounting for human dimensions to facilitate effective coral reef governance.

Biography: Lydia’s research is concerned with understanding how the goals of biodiversity conservation and sustainable resource use can be balanced in coral reef fisheries in developing countries. She is interested in fishers’ behaviour and its relationship to the ecological and socio-economic condition of fisheries, as well as in the effectiveness of marine protected areas in conserving resources and meeting fishing communities’ needs. Lydia will be conducting her Phd research in Pulau Banggi, Sabah, a large but relatively undeveloped island where she has returned to repeatedly since her first visit in 2004. Pulau Banggi was also the focus of Lydia’s MSc thesis, which assessed biophysical and social limits to tourism development on the island. Together with Louise Teh (FC student), she recently implemented a fish monitoring programme in several villages in Banggi, the first such attempt at documenting the island’s unmanaged fisheries. For her Phd thesis, Lydia will be using a fuzzy logic approach to integrate ecological, socio-economic, and behavioural factors in developing a site suitability index for marine protected area zoning decisions. Lydia is also involved in marine conservation as a volunteer at the Sugud Island Marine Conservation Area (Sabah), where she takes part in underwater fish surveys and reef mapping projects.

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