Applying a Conservation Criminology Framework to inform Compliance Management Practice in Marine Protected Areas

Dr Damian Weekers1

1Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Townsville, Australia

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are spatially representative management tools that impose various levels of protection for conservation purposes. As spatially regulated places, ensuring compliance with the rules represents a key element of effective management and positive conservation outcomes. Illegal fishing (poaching) is a serious global problem that undermines the success of MPAs. In this presentation we examine a socio-ecological approach to understanding the opportunity structure of poaching in no-take zones in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. We use Boosted Regression Trees to predict the spatio-temporal distribution of poaching risk within no-take Marine National Park zones. The results show that five risk factors account for nearly three quarters (73.6%) of the relative importance for poaching in no-take zones and that temporally varying conditions influence risk across space. We discuss these findings through a Conservation Criminology framework and provide an example of how this approach is being applied to compliance management practice in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park through the development of decision support tools.


Dr Damian Weekers is a Conservation Criminologist and the Assistant Director for Decision Support Systems at the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. Damian’s research uses Environmental Criminology perspectives to examine the situational aspects of compliance problems in MPAs. Damian’s recent work focuses on the practical application of these criminological perspectives through the adoption of evidence-based structured decision making. Damian has published in leading international criminology and conservation journals including, the British Journal of Criminology, Crime Science and Biological Conservation. Damian was the Australian recipient of the 2019 Australian and New Zealand Society of Criminology PhD Student Paper Prize.


Dec 10 2021