Policy analysis for tropical marine reserves: Challenges and directions

Murray A. Rudd*, Mark H. Tupper, Henk Folmer, G. C. van Kooten

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Marine reserves are considered to be a central tool for marine ecosystem-based management in tropical inshore fisheries. The arguments supporting marine reserves are often based on both the nonmarket values of ecological amenities marine reserves provide and the pragmatic cost-saving advantages relating to reserve monitoring and enforcement. Marine reserves are, however, only one of a suite of possible policy options that might be used to achieve conservation and fisheries management objectives, and have rarely been the focus of rigorous policy analyses that consider a full range of economic costs and benefits, including the transaction costs of management. If credible analyses are not undertaken, there is a danger that current enthusiasm for marine reserves may wane as economic performance fails to meet presumed potential. Fully accounting for the value of ecological services flowing from marine reserves requires consideration of increased size and abundance of focal species within reserve boundaries, emigration of target species from reserves to adjacent fishing grounds, changes in ecological resilience, and behavioural responses of fishers to spatially explicit closures. Expanding policy assessments beyond standard cost-benefit analysis (CBA) also requires considering the impact of social capital on the costs of managing fisheries. In the short term, the amount of social capital that communities possess and the capacity of the state to support the rights of individuals and communities will affect the relative efficiency of marine reserves. Reserves may be the most efficient policy option when both community and state capacity is high, but may not be when one and/or the other is weak. In the longer term, the level of social capital that a society possesses and the level of uncertainty in ecological and social systems will also impact the appropriate level of devolution or decentralization of fisheries governance. Determining the proper balance of the state and the community In tropical fisheries governance will require broad comparative studies of marine reserves and alternative policy tools.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-85
Number of pages21
JournalFish and Fisheries
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2003


  • Co-management
  • Cost-benefit analysis
  • Institutional analysis
  • Marine reserves
  • Nonmarket valuation
  • Social capital


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