Marine protected areas prove their worth

Posted: 22 May 2009

Protecting the oceans through marine protected areas can provide higher and more sustained income through tourism and controlled fisheries than continued exploitation. This is the conclusion of a series of case studies launched on World Biodiversity Day at the 2nd International Marine Protected Area Congress in Washington, D.C.

Along the western coast of Hawaii, a network of marine protected areas was established in 1999 following concerns about over harvesting by aquarium fishers. Eight years later, the total catch and the catch for the top two commercial species in the adjacent areas were higher than in the previous 40 years.

In the Navakavu Locally Managed Marine Area near Viti Levu Island in Fiji, finfish catch increased by 3 per cent in the four years after putting the area under protection, resulting in a revenue increase of US$28,700 for local communities.

Kulape-Batu-Batu Marine Protected Area
Kulape-Batu-Batu Marine Protected Area
Kulape-Batu-Batu Marine Protected Area, Tawi-Tawi province, Philippines. Photo: Abdullajid Basali/ IUCN
A third case study shows that fishermen near the Kulape-Batu-Batu Marine Protected Area, in the Philippine Tawi-Tawi province, were able to increase their income by about 20 per cent only one year after the establishment of the Kulape-Batu-Batu marine sanctuary.

"These case studies show that closing selected marine areas to fishing or other extractive uses makes economic sense," says Carl Gustaf Lundin, Head of IUCN's Global Marine Programme, which compiled the studies. "Marine protected areas, if well managed, help fish stocks replenish, which then increase yields in neighbouring areas and improve the economic situation of the local communities."

Lundy island

Marine protected areas also attract tourism, which is the other important source of income through marine conservation.

Since all fishing has been banned in the British Lundy Island No Take Zone, a small four square km marine protected area set up in the Bristol Channel in 2003, tourism has picked up significantly: the business of the area's tour operator, for example, has doubled since 2003. The fishing industry also benefits from the Lundy No Take Zone: lobsters have become more abundant and grown in average size, within and outside the protected zone, which is expected to replenish fish stocks in the area and increase fisheries yields.

Lundy Island No Take Zone
Lundy Island No Take Zone
Lundy Island No Take Zone, North Devon, England. Photo: James Wright/ IUCN
"On World Biodiversity Day, IUCN gives the proof that protecting the oceans is not only good for biodiversity, but it also makes money," says Julia Marton-Lefèvre, IUCN Director General. "These examples from around the world prove that there are no excuses anymore for exploiting the oceans until nothing is left - it will ultimately destroy the fishing industry altogether, let alone the diversity of life on our planet."

Less than one per cent of the world's oceans are currently protected, compared to about 12 per cent of the land surface. Governments agreed under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity to increase protection of the oceans to 10 per cent by 2010.

Related links:

Marine reserves can help restore world fisheries

WWF calls for five North Sea marine reserves