Source: Marilles foundation

Investing in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) pays off. This is the conclusion of an investigation into the benefits of Mediterranean marine reserves for the economy and wider society, commissioned by the Marilles Foundation and developed in collaboration with Ecoacsa, the Balearic Centre for Applied Biology (CBBA) and the British consultancy eftec.

  • The study reveals that every euro invested annually in the MPA of Llevant generates 10 euros of benefit.
  • This is the first time that a natural capital accounting methodology is applied to a Spanish MPA.
  • A methodological guide has been published together with the investigation, to facilitate the application of natural capital accounting to other MPAs.
  • The investigation has been conducted within the framework of the European Interreg Med MPA Networks

The Fisheries Marine Reserve of Llevant in Eastern Mallorca (Balearic Islands) covers 11,000 hectares, of which 5,900 hectares are under autonomous jurisdiction and 5,100 are under state jurisdiction. It was established in 2007 at the request of the fishermen’s association of Cala Rajada to improve catch and economic performance of the small-scale fleet, but results suggest that benefits go far beyond fisheries-related benefits: 

  • The natural capital from the MPA of Llevant is contributing EUR 4,826,518 per year to the local economy, equivalent to EUR 75 per hectare annually. The present value of future benefits within a horizon of 60 years exceeds EUR 126 million.
  • The annual investment required to maintain the natural capital of the reserve is EUR 473,137.
  • Services related to recreational activities represent the largest share of the benefits, with 65% of the total (EUR 3,141,340), followed by regulation services such us prevention of coastal erosion (EUR 772,547, 16%) and maintenance of biodiversity (EUR 447,313, 9%).
  • Although the 7.4 tons of fish landed by the professional fishing fleet have a small economic value (EUR 129,646) in comparison to the overall benefits, the MPA has helped maintain key jobs in a sector which has been declining over the past decades. This value has not been included in the final estimate.

“The results of this study show that MPAs provide multiple economic benefits. Investing in them pays off. The paradox is that marine protected areas of the Balearic Islands and in the rest of Spain are massively underfunded. Although the fisheries marine reserve of Llevant is giving positive results, we must not forget that it is still far from reaching its potential. Ensuring a proper level of funding we provide even higher returns on investment. The same applies to most marine protected areas in the Balearic Islands and Spain. The health of our sea and our coasts is essential for the economic prosperity of the Balearic Islands and Spain. As a signatory of the EU Biodiversity strategy Spain has committed to declaring at least 30% of the marine area as MPA by 2030 and at least 10% of the marine area under strict protection. Establishing a solid and well-funded network of marine protected areas must be a key part of the economic recovery in Spain. Having more and better marine protected areas will bring large benefits for two strategic industries such as tourism and fishing. We can come out of the post-Covid crisis by improving the state of our coast and our sea.”

Aniol Esteban, Director of Marilles Foundation

Read here for more information.