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April 05, 2013

A New Business Model for Marine Conservation

New study sheds light on the economic value of marine reserves
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California's network of Marine Protected Areas strives to conserve coastal ecosystems and improve recreational activities provided by marine ecosystems. Pacific Beach, CA.

A new study in the peer-reviewed scientific journal PLoS ONE concludes that marine reserves can make great economic sense. “A General Business Model for Marine Reserves”, authored by National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Enric Sala finds that when developed and managed correctly, marine reserves not only protect biodiversity and improve ecosystem health but can pay for themselves and turn a profit for stakeholder groups.

Sala, and a group of researchers from around the world, reviewed data from 124 marine reserves in 29 countries and found that, on average, "marine reserves cause increases of 21% in the number of species, 28% in the size of organisms, 166% in density (number of individuals per unit area), and a remarkable 446% in biomass, relative to unprotected areas nearby." The economic benefit to communities was seen in enhanced fishing outside of reserve boundaries due to "spillover effect" and increased tourism. The researchers found that these benefits offset the costs associated with limiting fishing within marine reserves in as little as 5 years.

WILDCOAST is working hard to build support for the ten state marine protected areas recently designated in San Diego County. If we are successful, this work will lead to the recovery of our coastal ecosystems and to real economic benefits for our communities.

National Geographic's Ocean Views has a great interview with Enric Sala about the study.