For optimal marine reserve design, take tourism into account

Soufrière Scotts Head Marine Reserve, Scott's Head, Commonwealth of Dominica. Image credit: Wayne Hsieh

A new research article argues, based on a bioeconomic model, that “accounting for tourism benefits will ultimately motivate greater ocean protection” when it comes to the design and management of marine reserves:

Marine reserve design often considers potential benefits to conservation and/or fisheries but typically ignores potential revenues generated through tourism. Since tourism can be the main source of economic benefits for many marine reserves worldwide, ignoring tourism objectives in the design process might lead to sub-optimal outcomes. To incorporate tourism benefits into marine reserve design, we develop a bioeconomic model that tracks tourism and fisheries revenues through time for different management options and location characteristics. Results from the model show that accounting for tourism benefits will ultimately motivate greater ocean protection. Our findings demonstrate that marine reserves are part of the optimal economic solution even in situations with optimal fisheries management and low tourism value relative to fisheries. The extent of optimal protection depends on specific location characteristics, such as tourism potential and other local amenities, and the species recreational divers care about. Additionally, as tourism value increases, optimal reserve area also increases. Finally, we demonstrate how tradeoffs between the two services depend on location attributes and management of the fishery outside marine reserve borders. Understanding when unavoidable tradeoffs will arise helps identify those situations where communities must choose between competing interests.

Read the full article at PLOS ONE.

[Image credit: Wayne Hsieh]

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