Multi- Stakeholder Perspectives on Coastal and Marine (Connectivity) Management in Dominican Republic
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Large-scale connectivity conservation initiatives are increasing in prevalence as a variety of benefits are continually being demonstrated through these models, such as establishing and strengthening marine protected area (MPA) networks. The historical approach to solely establishing protected areas (PA) is no longer sufficient for achieving effective protection and often does not include comprehensive and holistic management plans involving multiple perspectives. This thesis presents findings from research in the Dominican Republic (DR) where numerous components of coastal and marine social-ecological systems are addressed, including: status of large scale connectivity initiatives; governance structure inclusion of local resource users; and explore alternative livelihood opportunities. Data was acquired by conducting 35 key informant interviews achieved via snowball sampling with multi-scalar and cross sectoral coastal and marine stakeholders, ranging from the community level to high levels of government in the DR. After conducting interviews and evaluation of current and future large-scale marine conservation initiatives in the DR, current limitations and future opportunities for natural resource management were identified. The trend of ineffective small scale initiatives indicate that the management of individual parks or conservation projects need to be functioning smoothly (i.e. using best practices) prior to establishing larger scale conservation initiatives. Furthermore, there is ample opportunity for multiple sectors to be involved to aid the transition from extractive livelihoods in the Dominican Republic, such as destructive fishing practices, towards low impact and environmentally responsible opportunities. Findings from this study contribute to further understanding complex coastal systems, while considering management implications on local communities and ecosystems in the Dominican Republic. Recommendations from the research support a diverse governance structure of stakeholders from across sectors and multiple scales within the DR coastal and marine sector, to ensure priorities from all types of resource users are included in conservation management initiatives. Implications of this study further support the shift to inclusive governance frameworks that may contribute to increased compliance in the case of protected area legislations, boundaries knowledge, understanding local environmental challenges, and stewardship for coastal and marine resources. All these aspects help provide the appropriate institutional framework to ensure social connectivity, and ultimately assist the integration of local communities into a more sustainable and healthy relationship with nature.