As a major tool for policies to protect biodiversity, the current idea of Marine Protected Areas is based on a triptych (a status, a perimeter, and regulations) that is intended to ensure their effectiveness, with the conservation effort assessed by adding up the classified surface areas. Based on an international comparative analysis using 13 differentiated case studies, we take another look at three founding illusions according to which (a) the MPA status corresponds to protection (b) on the level of the classified perimeter, and (c) founded upon regulations laid down to be respected. Our analysis shows that the status is an activatable capital, whose activation may encounter various obstacles that we have listed; that we should distinguish between two levels and types of protection, active and passive, rather than stick to the classified perimeter; that the lack of specific regulations means nothing with regard to the lack of protection; and that MPAs with a legal arsenal at their disposal use these rules first and foremost as a medium for dialogue with stakeholders, with various aims. This analysis leads us to specify what MPAs actually are, and to suggest new means and indicators to assess the conservation efforts made.
Part of the book: Protected Area Management