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Integrating Science and Policy in Marine Reserves
by Matthew Cahn
Spring 2001

CINMS is currently engaged in a fascinating decision-making process regarding the establishment of marine reserves, or no-take zones. As a federal agency, CINMS is required to solicit public input into any regulatory decision it makes. The marine reserves process, however, goes well beyond any required public participation. In fact, CINMS may be ahead of most other federal agencies in giving the public a seat at the table.

The challenge before the agency is significant. On one hand, CINMS must balance competing mandates established by the National Marine Sanctuaries Act in 1972: conservation of marine resources versus protection of public and commercial access to the Sanctuary. On the other hand, the agency takes its partnership with the public seriously.

There is a consensus among marine scientists that a network of marine reserves is a powerful tool for enhancing biodiversity and mitigating damage to marine ecosystems. Yet, marine reserves may seriously impact consumptive users of Sanctuary resources.

To meet this challenge, CINMS has constructed a unique stakeholder process for evaluating the marine reserve question. A stakeholder working group - the Marine Reserves Working Group (MRWG) - and two advisory panels (scientific and socio-economic) were convened to better review science and policy preferences. The Science Advisory Panel reviewed those aspects of the working group's discussion that relied upon science-based information. The Socio-economic Advisory Panel collected economic data and made those data available to MRWG.

The process represents the best ideal of civic science, where stakeholders are integrated into the scientific process of evaluation in areas including : a) framing the problems in partnership with scientists; b) defining goals and objectives in consultation with scientists; c) and applying final ecological data to stakeholder reserve recommendations.

Scientists evaluated the best available informaltion on marine reserves, assembled appropriate datasets and analyzed those data using theoretical modeling, case study analysis and computer-based annealing.

Many observers have noted that the assumptions of science and policy are fundamentally different. Science is empirical; it assumes a high degree of training and expertise. There is a narrow protocol of acceptable methodologies, and outcomes are empirically justified according to these methodologies. By definition, access is limited.

In contrast, policy is normative, defining what we ought to do. Policy assumes multiple interests and stakeholders. There is no established protocol; instead, multiple methodologies are utilized. Policy outcomes are not empirically justifiable. And, policy access is, at best, unlimited. Stated another way, if science is rational and democracy is non-rational, there is bound to be conflict. It is no surprise, then, that bringing effective science into the policy process has been extremely challenging.

Integrating science into effective resource management has been attempted by federal agencies for many years. NOAA's national marine sanctuaries have developed an innovative approach that may provide a model across the nation. CINMS is at the forefront of this tread. The CINMS process is not year complete; however, it is possible to make some preliminary assessments. It is clear that this evolving model is closer to resolving the paradigmatic conflicts that have long kept science and policy at arm's length.

When interest-based stakeholders and scientists are successful at linking their analytic approaches, a truly civic-science based rulemaking process will emerge. Although practical issues my limit is application, the CINMS process is a model of a policy science partnership.

Dr. Matthew Cahn is a Professor of Pubic Policy at California State University Northridge and a Visiting Professor of Public Policy at the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management.

Science Advisory Panel Members

Dr. Matthew Cahn, Chair, CSU Northridge, Bren School

Dr. Mark Carr, UC Santa Cruz

Dr. Ed Dever, Scripps Institute

Dr. Steve Gains, UC Santa Barbara, Marine Science Institute

Peter Haaker, California Department of Fish and Game

Dr. Bruce Kendall, US Santa Barbara (Bren School of Environmental Science & Management)

Dr. Steve Murray, CSU Fullerton

Dr. Daniel Reed, UC Santa Barbara, Marine Science Institute

Dan Richards, Channel Islands National Park

Dr. Joan Roughgarden, Stanford University

Dr. Dave Siegel, UC Santa Barbara, ICESS, Bren School

Dr. Robert Warner, UC Santa Barbara

Dr. Libe Washburn, UC Santa Barbara, ICESS

Dr. Russ Vetter, National Marine Fisheries Service