Spatiotemporal modelling for policy analysis: application to sustainable management of whale-watching activities

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DOIResolve DOI: http://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpol.2012.05.031
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TypeArticle
Journal titleMarine Policy
ISSN0308597X
Volume38
Pages151162
SubjectAgent-based modelling; Spatiotemporal simulation; Whale-watching; Policy analysis; Sustainable management; Marine park
AbstractAnticipating the impacts of a new policy before implementation on a complex social–ecological system is a challenging task for managers and policymakers. This paper reports on the development and use of an agent-based model (ABM) dedicated to support marine park managers in their effort to devise policies to sustainably manage whale-watching activities. The ABM, called the Marine Mammal and Maritime Traffic Simulator (3MTSim), represents the spatiotemporal dynamics of marine mammals and navigation activities in and around the Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park in Canada. In the context of updating the current regulations on whale-watching in the Marine Park, 3MTSim was run to evaluate the merits of a proposed set of rules compared to the current regulations. To do so, a set of variables related to policies’ impacts on the three spheres of sustainable development, namely the impact on whales (Environment), on whale-watching companies (Economy), and tourist experience (Society) was analysed. 3MTSim's simulations highlighted that the proposed rules are expected to improve the situation regarding whale conservation and tourist experience with only marginal impact on the whale-watching industry. In the proposed regulations, one rule is expected to be very influential on whale-watching activities. This rule limits to 10 the number of whale-watching boats allowed to stand within 926 m of any boat in observation mode. Assuming efficient law enforcement, 3MTSim predicts a significant decrease in overall boat concentration around whales in the Marine Park, which is one of the management objectives benefiting both whales and tourists. Interestingly, 3MTSim reveals that this rule could indirectly force some boats to observe second-choice whales present in higher abundance rather than some more attractive species scarcer in the region. This highlights the following management tradeoffs: Reducing boat exposure for the humpback whale and endangered blue whale is likely to increase it for the more abundant fin whale listed as of special concern (Canada's Species at Risk Act) and minke whale. This work demonstrates the utility of ABMs to support policy analysis in the context of sustainable management in a Marine Park. ABMs developed in close relationship with end-users are unarguably a tool of choice to manage complex social–ecological systems since they provide insight into phenomena hard or impossible to measure in the real system. Despite the labour intensive nature of their implementation, this investment is worth the effort.
Publication date
LanguageEnglish
AffiliationOcean, Coastal and River Engineering; National Research Council Canada
Peer reviewedYes
IdentifierS0308597X12001297
NPARC number21268812
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Record identifierd54e9592-57bb-4265-a0a5-5607eb9db7ca
Record created2013-11-14
Record modified2016-05-09
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