carrying capacity

Tom van't Hof tomvanthof at
Wed Feb 12 18:00:33 EST 2003

The question by Pedro Alcolado has stirred up quite a bit of discussion,
which is good. I think we need to defer judgment on Duncan McRae's study
until the results are available for review by the scientific community, but
I just want to say this: while the lack of sewage treatment in Bonaire is
certainly a very important issue, in particular for the reefs near the
developed area, it's a little too easy to blame just sewage and not the
entire realm of activities and needs of divers and snorkellers. Until we
have hard data to reject the guideline of 5,000 - 6,000 divers per site per
year proposed by Roberts et al., let's be careful in adopting new estimates.
None of the high-use sites in the Dixon et al. and the Roberts et al.
studies were anywhere near sewage discharges.

Having said that, I would also like to strongly support the application of
the Limits of Acceptable Change (LAC) approach as an alternative to
traditional carrying capacity estimates, which aim at numbers. LAC really is
a management planning tool, and while it has only been applied to a MPA once
to my knowledge (the Saba Marine Park, Netherlands Antilles), it does have
tremendous potential and merits. The key to the success of a LAC planning
framework, however,  is the degree to which monitoring is carried out in
order to determine whether or not any standards may have been violated and
the willingness of the stakeholder community to implement the previously
agreed management interventions if standards are being violated. Stankey,
Cole, McCool and others have published many papers on the applicability of
the LAC framework, including a generic LAC process which I find very useful,
also for MPA management planning.

Tom van't Hof
Marine & Coastal Resource Management Consulting
The Bottom, Saba
Netherlands Antilles
Tel. (599) 416-3348
Fax (599) 416-3299
e-mail tomvanthof at

"Specializing in marine protected areas since 1979."
Resume, references and project history at

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