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Caught in a Maelstrom: Implementing California Marine Protected Areas

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The first attempt to implement the 1999 California Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) to establish marine protected areas (MPAs) ended contentiously in 2002. The initial MLPA process is examined by a statutory analysis and an analysis of stakeholder network relationships and beliefs. The failure of the initial MLPA process can be understood by a combination of factors: (i) Insufficient financial support from the California State government; (ii) Unclear, unranked and inconsistent statutory objectives; (iii) The application of a science-based process that excluded affected stakeholders; (iv) Implementing officials who lacked expertise in designing and managing political processes; and (v) A community of stakeholders who were polarized into coalitions of proponents and opponents of MPAs. The article concludes by discussing limitations of its methods and analysis and by offering strategies for learning from policy failures.

Keywords: Marine Life Protection Act; coalitions; implementation; marine protected areas; marine reserves

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: School of Public Affairs, University of Colorado Denver, Denver, Colorado, USA

Publication date: 2008-07-01

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