Solange TELES DA SILVA, Patricia Borba, Mauricio Duarte, Carolina DUTRA, Marcia Fajardo, Fernanda Salgueiro Borges

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Marine protected areas (MPAs) are legal instruments to safeguard the integrity of marine ecosystems and biodiversity. They must also safeguard the rights of local and traditional communities living in or nearby coastal zones, ideally with full consideration of and active participation by users of marine environmental resources in the areas’ management.

Participation in the process of implementing those areas, through both their creation and management, is a key not only to acceptance of their establishment but also to their administrative success. Our objective in this study is to evaluate the effectiveness of the participation principle in implementing MPAs in Brazil, particularly in the State of São Paulo, considering governance as a vital aspect for overcoming difficulties that often emerge during their establishment and management, normally through the enforcement powers of environmental agencies, in a “top-down” manner.

We have observed a progressive application of the participation principle in the field of MPAs. The legal requirement for studies and consultations prior to the creation of marine protected areas, as well as the establishment of consulting and decision-making boards to assure the people’s participation in managing this areas, have both been respected, although they fall short of benchmarks set by the SNUC. In December, 2014, of the 63 federal MPAs, just over 79% have established management boards and approximately 40% have management plans. In São Paulo, while 100% of the MPAs have management boards, 0% (none) have management plans.  The boards’ operations also lack transparency: they either have no web sites or do not post the minutes of the management boards’ meetings on the internet, often simply for the lack of employees, computers or any other means to assure the prompt dissemination of information.

The two most frequently used categories of federal MPAs are the 24 extractive reserves (Resex) and the 12 environmental protection areas (APAs). While 19 Resex areas have no management boards and just one has a management plan, all of the APAs have management boards and management plans. All of São Paulo’s seven MPAs have management boards, but none have management plans. Regarding information, there is a deficiency of transparency, little up-to-date information and even contradictory information on the same official site, amounting to barriers to access to information and to participation.

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