Practitioner’s Field Guide for Marine Conservation Agreements

Coral reef restoration project in Curieuse Marine National Park on Curieuse Island, Seychelles. Photo © Jason Houston

The Practitioner’s Field Guide for Marine Conservation Agreement (MCAs) is intended to take practitioners through a step-by-step process to investigate, negotiate, design, and implement MCAs. The Field Guide can be used as a stand-alone document, or to complement other processes.

How is the MCA Field Guide Organized?

Fringing reef at Chumbe Island. Photo © Chumbe Island Coral Park Ltd.

Most MCA projects involve a formal legal process and an informal negotiated process, both of which depend on the type and location of the project. The MCA Field Guide describes four general phases and several sub-steps within each phase that can be applied sequentially. However, project-specific circumstances may require practitioners to diverge from this order by undertaking some activities before others or by returning to activities that have already been completed but require additional work.

The major phases of the MCA Field Guide include:

  • Phase 1: Feasibility Analysis
  • Phase 2: Engagement
  • Phase 3: Contract Design
  • Phase 4: Implementation

After each phase, and most of the Phase 1 sub-steps, there are example tables intended to help practitioners visualize how findings can be summarized. Blank summary worksheets for the phases and sub-steps are available in the Resources section below.

The MCA Field Guide Checklist is provided on each page of the Field Guide to help practitioners track where they are in the process.

Who can use the MCA Field Guide?

Gili Trawangan, Indonesia. Photo © Jay Udelhoven/TNC

The MCA Field Guide can be used by conservation proponents and right-holders to assess, initiate, review, and implement MCAs at field sites or on larger scales. Conservation proponents can be, but are not limited to, government entities, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), eco-friendly businesses, and even private individuals and community groups. Right-holders (collectively the owners, managers, and users of ocean and coastal areas and resources) can be, but are not limited to, private individuals and families, local communities, user and community groups, and government entities. Which entity assesses, initiates, reviews, and implements an MCA is project-specific.

The Field Guide was developed using information and case studies from developing, emerging, and developed countries and, is appropriate for use in all three of these settings. The Field Guide is intended to be used by conservation practitioners and right-holders.

Which entities must legally evaluate, approve, and implement an MCA depends on the specific legal framework under which an MCA is established. At a minimum, conservation proponents and right-holders must evaluate and approve MCAs. Oftentimes, however, it is a good idea if several government agencies, including different levels of government, and local community members are included in the MCA process even when it is not legally required. In the end, having all direct and indirect stakeholders review and accept the MCA prior to implementation will likely make long-term support for and implementation of the project easier and more successful.

When local communities or governments are the conservation proponents or right-holders for a given MCA they will have a direct role in the evaluation, development, and approval of the MCA. If local communities or governments are initiating the MCA, then they will likely take the lead in the evaluation, development, and approval process. If others are initiating the MCA, then local communities and governments will be the recipients of information and requests related to the MCA. If local communities or governments are not directly involved in a given MCA, but may be affected by implementation of the MCA, then best practices dictate that they are consulted and given opportunities for input at several points during the evaluation and development process.

One or more government entities may also be directly involved in an MCA as a conservation proponent or as a right-holder. As such, these government entities may assume responsibility for assessing, developing, and implementing MCA projects. If a government entity is not directly involved in an MCA project, the government entity may still have an oversight role to ensure the parties to the agreement are treating each other fairly, have identified and accounted for all necessary issues and requirements, and are generally acting in accordance with the law.

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