Understanding Persistent Non-compliance in a Remote, Large-Scale Marine Protected Area

Claire Collins, Ana Nuno, Annette Broderick, David J. Curnick, Asha de Vos, Thomas Franklin, David M.P. Jacoby, Chris Mees, James Moir-Clark, John Pearce, Tom B. Letessier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Area coverage of large-scale marine protected areas (MPAs) (LSMPAs, > 100,000 km2) is rapidly increasing globally. Their effectiveness largely depends on successful detection and management of non-compliance. However, for LSMPAs this can be difficult due to their large size, often remote locations and a lack of understanding of the social drivers of non-compliance. Taking a case-study approach, we review current knowledge of illegal fishing within the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) LSMPA. Data stemming from enforcement reports (2010–20), and from fieldwork in fishing communities (2018–19) were combined to explore and characterise drivers of non-compliance. Enforcement data included vessel investigation reports (n = 188), transcripts of arrests (20) and catch seizures (58). Fieldwork data included fisher interviews (95) and focus groups (12), conducted in two communities in Sri Lanka previously associated with non-compliance in BIOT LSMPA. From 2010 to 2020, there were 126 vessels suspected of non-compliance, 76% of which were Sri Lankan. The majority of non-compliant vessels targeted sharks (97%), catching an estimated 14,340 individuals during the study period. Sri Lankan vessels were primarily registered to one district (77%) and 85% operated from just two ports within the fieldwork sites. Social Network Analysis (SNA) showed that 66% of non-compliant vessels were linked by social ties, including sharing crew members, compared with only 34% of compliant vessels. Thematic analysis of qualitative data suggested that perceptions of higher populations of sharks and social ties between vessels may both be important drivers. We discuss our findings within a global context to identify potential solutions for LSMPA management.
Original languageEnglish
Article number650276
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalFrontiers in Marine Science
Publication statusPublished - 10 May 2021


  • Deterrence
  • Enforcement
  • illegal fishing
  • Marine protected area
  • Non-compliance
  • Sharks
  • Social network analysis


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