Protecting the oceans makes economic sense

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 result of IUCN’s new compilation of case studies about the economic benefits of marine protected areas, launched on World Biodiversity Day at the 2nd International Marine Protected Area Congress in Washington, D.C.

Fish and seagrass, Menorca, Spain

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. Western Hawaii case study

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. Navakavu case study

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 percent only one year after the establishment of the Kulape-Batu-Batu marine sanctuary. Kulape-Batu-Batu case study

“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. “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.”

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 case study

“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 percent of the world’s oceans are currently protected, compared to about 12 percent of the land surface. Governments agreed under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity to increase protection of the oceans to 10 percent by 2010.

For more information, please contact:


  • Carl Gustaf Lundin, Head of IUCN Global Marine Programme, e [email protected]
  • Experts on each of the four case studies - contact details enclosed in each case study.

Case studies:

Kulape-Batu-Batu Marine Protected Area, Philippines:   

Navakavu Locally Managed Marine Area, Fiji: 

Western Hawaii Marine Protected Area Network, USA:  

Lundy Island No Take Zone, England: 

Work area: 
Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)
North America
North America
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