Sometimes the situation gets even more complicated. For example, when it comes to people needing to feed their families. “First and foremost, conservation practices need to be both just and fair for the fishers that are affected,” Brock says. “In this case, it may not be just or ethical to force compliance from fishers who are struggling to survive if they don’t have any other alternative livelihood options.”
Finding the best solutions with the local community
There is no one-size-fits-all solution. There is still a lot to be learned before one can decide what is best for a certain marine park. Brock’s research focuses on how social influence, such as norms, can be used to convince people not to poach in marine protected areas in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and also in Australia.
“These three countries have a range of fisheries — recreational, commercial, and subsistence — and cultural contexts, which will allow me to compare the success of norms in these different settings.”
For this research, Brock will be working closely with local conservation practitioners and organisations. “We need to understand the local social and personal norms about poaching, and reporting illegal fishing,” he says. “We’ll use a mix of methods to understand these, such as community consultations, workshops, and pilot surveys.”
Getting local leaders on board – but also the children
When the local norm is that poaching is not something to be worried about, this can be changed and replaced by norms that encourage people to follow the rules. “Part of our strategy to instil or reinforce these pro-conservation norms will rely on identifying and working with high-status leaders in local communities,” Brock says. “Whether they are community leaders and elders, religious leaders, or fishing organisation leaders, as often times some people may be more than one.”
Children can also be a part of the solution, if they understand why coral reef conservation is important. “Oftentimes, children bring these values and perspectives back home to their parents, and through their discussions, apply considerable levels of social pressure,” Brock says. “Educating and empowering children is likely a very powerful and underappreciated way to instil long lasting cultural change.”