We live in a world with a growing population with increasing demands. Yet we are unsustainably exhausting our seas. The ocean economy, the “blue” economy, can only meet our increasing demand if we restore the ocean and manage it better for the goods and services it provides.
Marine protected areas (MPAs) have been shown to act like a bank account and an insurance policy for maintaining ocean resilience and productivity, securing a return on investment and economic stability.
The big challenge for successful MPAs is financing their implementation. A study published in PLOS ONE (Public Library of Science) in 2013 showed that the benefits of expanding MPAs outweigh the costs within as little as five years.
Another study by environmental economists in 2015 calculated that expanding MPAs to cover 30 per cent of the ocean could increase their economic benefits to a total of $490-920 billion to 2050. A new study of the Sargasso Sea confirms that the benefits of the ecosystem services extend far past its boundaries, in the form of tourism for whale-watching in North America and spawning for eel fisheries in Europe.
Governments, business and community leaders can help to identify financial mechanisms, not only for local or national waters, but also for international seas. We already have diver, snorkeller and surfing charges in Bonaire in the Antilles, tourism fees in Galapagos and the Great Barrier Reef, airport exit fees and cruise ship fees in Belize.
We need to create trust funds for marine protected areas in perpetuity — the MAR fund is an example already working for the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef; the Phoenix Islands has its own conservation trust; an endowment fund is being developed for the Bird’s Head Seascape in West Papua. We also need to look beyond existing structures and think of an ocean sustainability bank. There are development banks around the world but no bank for 70 per cent of the planet’s surface.
We urge governments, business and communities today, World Oceans Day, to collaborate with us to secure this blue life-support system. Together, we can invest in the ocean economy and develop the financing solutions required to create successful marine protected areas around the planet.
Pieter Stemerding, managing director, Adessium Foundation; Charles Clover, Chairman, Blue Marine Foundation; Alasdair Harris, executive director, Blue Ventures; Greg Stone, executive vice president and chief scientist, Conservation International; David Obura, director, CORDIO East Africa; Tundi Agardy, director MARES programme, Forest Trends; Torsten Thiele, founder, Global Ocean Trust; Peggy Kalas, co-ordinator, High Seas Alliance; Carl Gustaf Lundin, director of the global marine and polar programme, IUCN; Dan Laffoley, marine chair, IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas; Kristina Gjerde, senior high seas adviser, IUCN Global Marine and Polar Programme; Lance Morgan, president and CEO, Marine Conservation Institute; Jorge Jiménez, director general, Marviva; Lasse Gustavsson, executive director, Europe, Oceana; Dominique Duval-Diop, secretary general, RAMPAO; David Freestone, executive secretary, Sargasso Sea Commission; Sylvia Earle, founder and chairman, SEAlliance & Mission Blue; Mark Spalding, global marine team, The Nature Conservancy; John Tanzer, director global marine programme, WWF