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Conservation and Society
An interdisciplinary journal exploring linkages between society, environment and development
Conservation and Society
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Year : 2015  |  Volume : 13  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 154-165

Whose Threat Counts? Conservation Narratives in the Wakatobi National Park, Indonesia

1 The Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
2 School of Earth and Environment and The Oceans Institute, University of Western Australia, Crawley, Australia

Correspondence Address:
Franciska von Heland
The Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, Stockholm
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0972-4923.164194

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The ongoing global decline of coral reefs and their associated fisheries highlights issues of governance, including contrasting interpretations of the marine environment, the drivers and agents of environmental degradation, and the appropriate actions to address these. It is therefore essential to understand the social practices of value articulation through which marine ecosystems and resources are assigned meaning and recognition. In this regard, narratives identifying 'which aspects of the environment should be made resilient', 'to what threats', and 'through which solutions' are particularly important. Such narratives may fundamentally alter marine governance by defining which knowledge counts, steering conservation activities toward certain goals, and assigning people with new identities. We explore these issues in the context of a marine national park in eastern Indonesia, where the key narratives revolve around values associated with high coral reef biodiversity. International and domestic conservation-oriented organisations promote a narrative describing the park as a success story exemplifying co-management and equality in decision-making. Furthermore, a narrative emphasising illegal fishing by outsiders creates an adversarial scenario that favours certain more powerful institutions and subsumes competing narratives emanating from disadvantaged ethnic minorities. We suggest that these narratives reflect critical issues of governance, including resource allocation, management practices, stakeholder relations, and influence conservation outcomes by favouring the protection of some species, ecosystems, and sites over others.

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