Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) have been designed as a strategic tool for the long-term conservation of the marine environment, including species, habitats, ecosystems and their services as well as to ensure a sustainable management and use of marine resources.
The level of success and continuity over time of these preservation tools depends directly on the size and capacity of the management teams, and their ability to work in appropriate conditions for example, well-managed MPAs have been found to contain more than 5 times the total large fish biomass and 14 times the shark biomass compared with fished areas. The level of MPA management depends directly on funding and financial strategies. The achievement of MPA preservation objectives thus indirectly depends on budget available to support management teams and their activities.
In most developing or least developed countries, MPAs remain underfunded resulting in a less efficient protection of species and habitats. In the Mediterranean, MPAs also face operational difficulties, especially in non-European countries. In general, existing MPAs suffer from a significant lack of resources to finance recurrent costs including staff costs but also costs of equipment, monitoring, research, training and management, boundary demarcation, effective law enforcement and the provision of adequate park infrastructure. Existing financial contributions are well below requirements and reveal a strong disparity between the northern and southern basin. All of which affect protected area performance. Establishing sustainable financing for MPAs is thus an essential exercise to help MPA reach an effective management.
While the financial resources of MPAs today depend on rather conventional mechanisms (public funds, European projects, bilateral aid or international donors), there are other, more innovative mechanisms (such as tourism spillovers) that could contribute to the sustainability of financial stability of MPAs. MPA managers therefore need to define funding strategies to strengthen and sustain their conservation activities over time.