MPA Perceptions by Small-Scale Fishermen in Sicily, Italy


The study focused on determining the effectiveness of management practices and regulations in two marine reserves in northwestern Sicily (Italy).

Reserves included the Egadi Islands Marine Reserve and the Gulf of Castellammare Fishery Reserve.

Research was conducted by interviewing fishermen in the communities to determine their perceptions of the local reserves, the impacts the reserves have had on their lives, and how management can be improved.


The full text report can be accessed through ResearchGate

Methods, Tools, and Data

Two questionnaire surveys were conducted. First, all fishing boat captains were interviewed and helped complete questionnaires. The interviews focused on knowledge of management practices, efficiency of enforcement practices and regulations, demographics (age, years fishing, education, other occupations undertaken, sex), fishing activities (fishing grounds used, gear, species caught, catch distribution), opinions of the marine reserve, suggestions for improvements in management and concerns.

The second questionnaire focused on the opinions of local residents and tourism operators who are dependent on the ability of the reserves to attract tourists. Many of the same questions were used so that some comparisons could be made between the opinions of the fishing community and local residents. Questions included knowledge of the reserves? regulations, opinions of current management, suggestions for improving management, and overall demographics.

Secondary Data Analysis 
An extensive literature review of articles and reports relating to the effectiveness of MPAs and marine reserves was conducted. Data were also retrieved from biological studies in the Egadi Islands conducted by the University of Palermo so that the overall biological success of the reserves could be assessed.

Related Methods

Demography is the study of the characteristics of human populations, such as size, growth, density, and distribution. Demographic analysis provides insights into the links between these characteristics and the cultural, economic, geographic, and other social attributes present in a given area.
Use of data that was collected by individuals other than the investigator. This includes newspapers, census data, maps, etc. Secondary data analysis is often a starting point for other social science research methods.
A standardized list of questions that may be administered formally or informally by mail, telephone, Internet, or in person to collect specific information from multiple individuals.

Discussion of Results

Results of the research revealed that better management practices would be needed for more effective reserves. The study concluded that the following changes should be made to management:

  • Management must communicate better with fishermen and local residents, particularly related to boundary locations and why the reserves are needed.
  • Enforcement of regulations must be heavily increased.
  • New performance measurement techniques should be established by using stakeholder knowledge and opinions, most importantly those of fishermen.
  • Locals should be involved in decision making.

Lessons Learned

  • Locals should be used as much as possible in the collection of data for any research activity.
  • The purpose of the study must be made very clear to research assistants so that the proper information is collected from questionnaire and interview respondents.
  • Language can pose a strong barrier in data collection. Interviewers that speak the local language as their mother tongue should be used as much as possible.

Related Partners

NOAA is a federal agency focused on the condition of the oceans and the atmosphere. It plays several distinct roles within the Department of Commerce.


  • This study was conducted by Amber Himes at the Laboratorio di Ecologia della Fascia Costiera (Istituto del? Ambiente Marina e Costiera), Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily, Italy. 

Books and Publications

  • Himes, Amber H. (2003). "Small-Scale Sicilian Fisheries: Opinions of Artisanal Fishers and Sociocultural Effects in Two MPA Case Studies." Coastal Management. Volume 31, Number 4. Pages 389 to 408.