How will we measure the success of the MPA?

Monitoring and evaluation

Blue shark - AIGCFD
Blue shark - AIGCFD

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Monitoring, research and evaluation is so fundamental to the success of the MPA that we have dedicated an entire strategy to it.

Ascension Island - Paul Colley
Ascension Island - Paul Colley

We need to be able to demonstrate to our funders, partners and supporters that we are making a difference and achieving our objectives, and we need to learn from experience and keep improving what we do through adaptive management.

We are very clear about what we want the MPA to achieve, but have the humility to acknowledge we aren’t certain of the best way to get there. We will be continually checking that there are no new or growing threats to our marine ecosystems and that the management actions we are taking to tackle the existing threats are working.

That doesn’t mean we will monitor everything; we simply don’t have the resources and it isn’t necessary. We will encourage external researchers to come to Ascension and advance our overall knowledge of the marine environment, but our work will be firmly focused on the information we need to make better management decisions. That requires not just a robust monitoring system embedded from the start, but also a strong evaluation process that encourages honest assessment and is prepared to alter the direction of management if necessary.

Our monitoring approach is split into two strands:

Management Plan implementation

Have planned actions been completed and outcomes achieved?

There are performance targets connected to all the management actions. Attainment of the target will be recorded to demonstrate the actions have been accomplished as planned.

Performance monitoring

Are we achieving the MPA objectives?

All of the operational objectives have metrics and targets associated with them by which progress towards achieving the objective can be measured. It is not currently possible to measure all the suggested metrics (particularly for pelagic and deep sea ecosystems) and initially there will be an emphasis on the metrics that can be measured, reliance on key indicator species/habitats and, where necessary, proxy objectives. A major focus of the Monitoring, Evaluation and Research Strategy will be to develop resource-efficient means of addressing the major gaps in recording the metrics.

This dual approach to monitoring is essential to distinguish success in delivering the management actions from success in meeting the objectives. If objectives are not being achieved then it is important to know whether greater effort is needed to complete the management actions, or whether the actions themselves need to be reviewed.

To balance the need for frequent evaluation against the need for management stability, we have adopted a model of an annual progress review combined with a much more detailed and comprehensive revision of the MPA Management Plan every five years. The evaluation process will be transparent and involve external oversight to ensure it is rigorous and objective. The Monitoring, Evaluation and Research Strategy outlines the review process in more detail.

The evaluation of the MPA’s performance will be of interest to a range of audiences and we will publish the results in formal reports, infographics and brief snap shots of progress for dissemination via social media. We want all the outputs from the evaluation to be accessible and compelling, such that anyone will quickly be able to see the areas that are working and those that need improvement.