VIEWPOINT : Marine Protected Areas - Money in the Bank for Fisheries Sustainability

Posted on 05 December 2012    
Lida Pet-Soede
© Elma Okic
In the Coral Triangle, marine resources provide food and generate economic benefits for communities, the private sector, and government. To sustain these benefits, the renewal of those resources needs to be ensured, critical biological processes need to be protectedand wide spread adoption of responsible utilization schemes need to be in place.All these can only be achieved through good governance by multiple stakeholders, which in itself must be sustainable.

In 2007, the President of Indonesia led the formation of the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries, and Food Security (CTI-CFF), which was formally declared in 2009. This unprecedented effort reflects the vision of the region, where the emerging nationsincreasingly recognize the need to sustain extraordinary marine and coastal resources under threat by climate change impacts.

Specifically acknowledging the importance of setting aside some of the coastal and marine areas for fisheries sustainability, the governments of the Coral triangle countries made commitments to expand networks of marine protected areas (MPAs). For example in Indonesia, this resulted in commitments to expand the MPA area from 7.4 million hectares in 2006 to 20 million hectares by 2020. This new growth will mostly occur at sub-national levels where capacity and assured funding sources are not yet in place. Experts estimate annual costs of operating effective MPAs range from US$3.50 to US$7.00 per hectare, implying total costs in 2020 will range fromUS$70 million to US$140 million for an expanded Indonesian MPA network.

At this current juncture, it is high time for countries in the Coral Triangle to walk the talk and increase government expenditures significantly for the effective management of their national systems of MPAs, and support the full expansion of the entire MPA system as committed to respectively.

Foundations, NGOs, bi- and multi-lateral aid agencies have all made significant contributions to the design and planning of MPAs during their early phases of development in the various countries. These same foundations, NGOs, and agencies have also provided substantial operating and financial assistance to support the more recently added MPAs throughout the region. Many now realize, however, that they are likely unable to continue the level of financial support indefinitely, for example, particularly as Indonesia’s MPA networks scale up to 20 million hectares.

As the various governments devolve their local management mandates to local government services in provinces and regencies, the involvement of these government agencies in providing public financing to cover fisheries management functions of MPAs should gradually expand over time, as the funding provided by foundations to "kick-start" the development of MPAs gradually scales down.

The complexity and urgency of establishing new MPAs and having them effectively managed for national and regional biodiversity and fisheries sustainability outcomes underlines the importance of cooperation and discussion among donors, NGOs, multilateral and bilateral agencies about approaches to achieve long-term sustainable financing of MPAs in the Coral Triangle.

In past discussions about sustainable financing for the effective management of for example Indonesia’s national system of MPAs, debates about the total amount of funding needed and the mechanisms for long-term finance have received some level of attention and technical support. Yet, the focus on those aspects has delayed the urgently required discussion about the need to increase Indonesia’s central and local government allocations. This is a concern.

At a time when the Coral Triangle government urgently need to recognize the real value of their marine resources and fisheries and take steps to increase their commitment to—and expand funding for—local or regency-level MPAs, it is critically important that all start accepting MPAs as critical strategies for fisheries replenishment and livelihood sustainability tools instead of a perceived luxury for scuba divers and tourists. It’s also imperative for the Coral Traingle governmentsto not defer its responsibility by counting too much on external sources of finance.

Lida Pet-Soede
© Elma Okic Enlarge

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