© 2014 Elsevier Ltd. The integration of scientific information into the decision-making process for the management of marine resources remains a significant challenge, with the inaccessibility of primary scientific literature to environmental practitioners identified as a key limiting factor. Here, we quantify the use of primary scientific literature in environmental management plans, and explore potential barriers to the efficient integration of such scientific information into the decision-making process. Through a case study of coral dominated Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) spanning three countries (Australia, Kenya and Belize), we find that primary scientific literature represents only 14% of information cited in management plans. Such a low proportion is likely to be symptomatic of several issues regarding the accessibility of primary scientific literature to MPA managers, such as: 1. Long publication times for articles (average 40.2±1.8 months); 2. Subscription-only access (up to 56% of articles behind paywalls); and/or 3. Poor articulation of management implications (only 19% of articles provided clear outcomes relevant to management). Such impediments can undermine the adaptive governance of MPAs, so we suggest improvements to knowledge transfer among scientists and managers via a diversity of approaches including knowledge brokers, boundary organisations, knowledge co-production and management-orientated summaries in research articles.