Marine Protected Area Network Design Features that Support Resilient Human-Ocean Systems

Applications to British Columbia, Canada



Jenn. M. Burt1,3*, Phillip Atkins2, Erin Latham2, Martina Beck2, Anne. K. Salomon1,3, Natalie C. Ban2

1. School of Resource and Environmental Management, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, Canada

2. School of Environmental Studies, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC Canada

3. Hakai Institute, Tula Foundation, Quadra Island, B.C., Canada

* Corresponding author -



In this report, we synthesize the overarching principles and general guidelines that underpin the establishment of marine protected area (MPA) networks designed to meet ecological, governance, social and cultural objectives, based on the peer-reviewed literature. These guidelines are supported by scientific research, institutional experience and global case studies, and take a social-ecological systems approach to marine conservation. Our synthesis suggests the successful establishment and effective management of MPA networks depend on legitimate and effective governance arrangements that can accommodate ecological criteria while considering the perspectives and input of local resource users and stakeholders. Planners, managers and decision-makers can use the guidelines summarized in this report to support the process of MPA network design in their local contexts. We discuss how several of the design guidelines apply to the Pacific region of British Columbia (B.C.), Canada, given the federal and provincial governments have committed to establishing a bioregional network of MPAs.

Specifically, this report contains:

  • Ecological principles and guidelines for MPA network design, with discussion and recommendations on how each of these principles could be applied in B.C.;
  • Species-specific movement and larval duration estimates for a selection of marine species of ecological, economic, cultural and conservation importance in B.C., with recommendations on how this can inform guidelines on the size and spacing of MPA networks in B.C.;
  • Overarching principles from global literature on good governance of MPAs and MPA networks;
  • Design goals and strategies for achieving different social objectives in MPA and MPA network planning; and
  • Opportunities and challenges for integrating local knowledge systems (focus on Traditional Ecological Knowledge) into marine planning and MPA design.
  • An assessment of relevant B.C. policy documents using the ecological and good governance guideline frameworks. 


The following links contain the information from Appendices C and D in the report, downloadable here as excel files for ease of reference/use. Please cite the report as the data source.

Appendix C - Adult movement and depth information for select B.C. fish and invertebrate species.

Appendix D - Larval duration and reproductive characteristics for select B.C. fish and invertebrate species.

The first version of this document was prepared for the Kitasoo/XaiXais First Nation and the Great Bear Initiative Society in July 2013. The contents are the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Kitasoo/XaiXais First Nation or the Great Bear Initiative Society.