Marine Protected Areas Intensify Both Cooperation and Competition

Friendly Rivalry Can Boost Effective Conservation of Marine Resources

Duke University, 4 March 2016.

This article summarizes recently published research, conducted by Duke University, concerning the impacts that Marine Protected Areas may have on social organization within communities affected by their implementation.   It shows that maintaining a balance between cooperation and competition may be essential for a successful transition into marine conservation, but an increase in competition without cooperation may result in a disregard for new rules.

The research focused on four different fishery dependent communities, in Baja California, Mexico, with two of the groups being adjacent to a Marine Protected Area, and the other 2 groups being from outside the impact area of the MPA.   The research “included controlled economic experiments which were based on game theory, to study prosocial and antisocial behaviors among fishermen and non-fishermen’ within the communities.

Researchers found that both “friendly-rivalry’, and cooperation were higher in communities which were undergoing economic diversification because of the influence of the local MPA.   Researchers stress that while these initial findings are encouraging for how communities will react to MPA’s, there is a fine balance that must be maintained to ensure continued cooperation between local fishermen.   If any social inequalities are developed through the process of marine protection, cooperation is at risk of decreasing, which could have a drastic effect on how locals interact with the MPA.

This study gives fishery managers tremendous insight into how important and complex the human dimension of fishery management is.   If MPA’s are implemented with an appropriate amount of consideration for how to maintain equality throughout local communities, local residents can become assets to conservation, while maintaining a healthy local fishing economy.   If proper consideration is not granted, extreme-competition and lack of cooperation could result in communities unraveling, and ideas of protection being disregarded.

Journal Reference:

Xavier Basurto, Esther Blanco, Mateja Nenadovic and Björn Vollan.Integrating Simultaneous Prosocial and Antisocial Behavior into Theories of Collective Action.  Science Advances, March 2016 DOI:10.1126/sciadv.1501220

Work Cited:                                                                        

Duke University. “Marine protected areas intensify both cooperation and competition: Friendly rivalry can boost effective conservation of marine resources.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 March 2016. <>.


2 thoughts on “Marine Protected Areas Intensify Both Cooperation and Competition”

  1. This is an interesting article and a great insight into how much human interaction affects the sustainability of fisheries around the globe. Thanks for sharing this article!

Leave a Reply