Marine Planning
Practical Approaches to Ocean and Coastal Decision-Making

Lessons Learned

Resource Allocation

In any zoning effort, it is essential to make careful decisions about how to invest time and funding in data collection. Building a spatial database that represents ocean uses and the habitats supporting them requires integrating a wide variety of ecological and socioeconomic data. It is challenging to integrate datasets from different sources with different scales to produce a network-wide view. In particular, the data collection process should address the mismatch in scale between types of data and the need for transparent choices about which datasets are included.


The following strategic investments could further strengthen multi-objective marine planning:

Kids fishing

Photo © Feri Latief

  • Ongoing data from individual MPA sites for analysis at site and network levels
  • Data on resource use
  • Ecological, sociocultural, and economic data outside MPAs
  • Data on more types of coastal habitat (e.g., mangrove, seagrass) and critical offshore habitat, both benthic and pelagic
  • Database maintenance and management by local government agencies and universities

"Sustainability" Dimensions

There are many different ways to represent “sustainable fisheries” in a systematic planning effort, but for practical reasons it is usually possible to address only some. This project focused on ensuring that community livelihood and food access needs for fisheries in Raja Ampat were met. Some other aspects that could have been addressed include: (a) ensuring that MPAs protect habitats that make an especially important contribution toward sustainable fisheries, (b) ensuring that key species and interactions within the ecosystem are included within a no-take zone, (c) protecting spawning areas, nursery grounds and other areas needed for key life history stages, and (d) ensuring that the interactions between key species are documented and taken into account when designing a no-take or a sustainable fishing zone. Representing these aspects would have required additional data collection and modeling efforts, beyond the scope of this project.


For a zoning plan to be achievable—that is, supported by user groups and feasible in the local context—the zoning process should be as participatory as possible. This project actively engaged local communities, practitioners and government agencies through activities ranging from technical workshops to community meetings. These steps helped build support and forge important partnerships. The resulting feedback greatly benefited the development of decision support tools. Information flowed in both directions, both to and from stakeholders and the project team, an essential ingredient of any marine zoning process. This process also fostered a greater appreciation of the ecosystem services that could be sustained through zoning.


In order for decision support tools to be useful, it is important that they are applied in the most transparent manner, with stakeholder involvement in the definitions of key assumptions and parameters. Like any modeling tool, Marxan with Zones presents a set of challenges and opportunities. There is a danger of such tools becoming a “black box” with choices and assumptions unclear to stakeholders, setting up a negative chain reaction against other decision support products. The participatory process that took place during this project facilitated stakeholder input at a number of key analysis junctures, producing zoning scenarios that reflected community input.

Data Requirements

The extensive data requirements of Marxan with Zones should be considered carefully when evaluating the resources needed for data collection and analysis. While Marxan with Zones is an evolution of the widely used Marxan software and may seem similar in look and feel, the two have important differences in information requirements. In addition to ecological data, Marxan with Zones requires a considerable amount of data on ecosystem services and people’s desires regarding ocean uses. Model outputs are only as good as the data used to build them.


Recognizing that insufficient management of activities outside MPAs could lead to ineffective protection, scaling up from MPA zoning to ocean zoning of the wider seascape could provide additional support for sustainability. Benefits of ocean zoning could include harmonization with terrestrial land-use planning and enhancements in fisheries management, helping to secure the local food supply and livelihoods.

Kakes ritual

Traditional leaders from Kofiau Island, Raja Ampat, give offerings to the gods and goddesses of the ocean to guard the sea through a ritual called Kakes. This one was held after a ceremony in which the Kofiau traditional elders gave a support letter to the Raja Ampat government declaring the zoning system for the Kofiau Marine Protected Area. Photo © Nanang Sujana

Further Information


Sangeeta Mangubhai, PhD
Bird's Head Senior Technical Advisor
Tel: +62 361 287-272
Fax: +62 361 270-737 
The Nature Conservancy
Indonesia Marine Program
Coral Triangle Center
Jl. Pengembak No.2
Sanur 80228, Bali


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