Adele Bennett

AdeleBennett Image Thesis Rationale.jpgMarine Park Blues – the elusive balance between people and the ocean

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) have been the topic of many contentious debates in recent times. The shortcomings and pitfalls, along with the benefits, of MPAs have been reviewed many times in scientific literature. But what do shortcomings such as insufficient planning and monitoring actually mean for the various stakeholders of MPAs? And what does limited compliance and understanding mean for the success of a MPA?

Adele and Ben filmed in the Solitary Island Marine Park near the Queensland coast.

It was the first marine park to be established in NSW, Australia and stretches from Sandon in the North, to Mutton Bird Island, off Coffs Harbour, in the South. As well as being breathtakingly stunning, the unique habitat and water temperature has ensured that the marine park is home to an array of species. There is a huge range of activities that take place in the park, from recreational fishing, diving and spearfishing to surfing, sailing and commercial fishing. So the area is extremely important to the locals that love this coastal lifestyle.

A scientific audit was recently done to determine the level of conservation needed in marine parks across NSW. This found that to protect the unique ecosystems, conservation levels need to be increased. But what does this mean for users of the marine park? It is clear that everyone that is involved with the marine park has the same overall goal of achieving a balance between the needs of the environment and the needs of people who use the park.

In our film we talk to people from different user groups including a commercial fisherman, recreational spearfishermen, scuba divers and scientists to present the ways that the park is used, the differing opinions of people with a stake in the park and document the process of finding a balance.

My graduate work is an exploration of the lack of communication between those implementing policy and the general public who will be affected by MPA changes. In doing this I have been focusing on the Solitary Islands Marine Park, with the intention of making a documentary showcasing this highly biodiverse and unique environment, while highlighting the struggle for a compromise between conservation and the requirements of stakeholders. I have filmed many interviews where commercial and recreational fishermen, divers, managers and scientists associated with the Solitary Islands Marine Park articulate their diverse opinions on the need for conservation, and their understanding of the current policies in this MPA. The interviews reveal that although these stakeholders agree that conservation is necessary, there are markedly differing views and understanding on the level of conservation needed in the Solitary Islands Marine Park.  While there is so much uncertainty, the ability for the marine park to be successful in striking a balance where everyone can support and enjoy the marine park sustainably is limited. My presentation will summarise key material from the interviews with an overall goal of representing the effect of a lack of communication between stakeholders and managers. This analysis yields insight into improvements that may be available to facilitate broad-scale communication of the science behind planning, implementation and monitoring, which is vital to the success of any MPA.

To learn more about their experinces while making this film, visit!about-the-film