Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) have become recognized as important management tools for marine and coastal ecosystems in the last few decades. However, the theoretical underpinnings of MPA regimes have arguably not yet received sufficient attention. This paper attempts to remedy this by exploring how the Cultural Theory initiated by Dame Mary Douglas can provide a theoretical foundation for the current debates about the design of MPA regimes. It does so by firstly noting that the various types of MPA governance discussed in the literature correspond to the ways of organizing, perceiving and justifying social relations recognized in Cultural Theory. The article continues by setting out how Cultural Theory helps to explain when and why MPA regimes succeed or fail to reach their goals. In particular, the article highlights the practical importance of accommodating all ways of organizing and perceiving social relations in any MPA management plan. Finally, the paper suggests that further systematic, empirical work for assessing MPAs needs to be undertaken so as to corroborate the arguments advanced in this paper.
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