Pay out from Nature’s marine Bank helps alleviate poverty

09 December 2007


Coral reef fish


We hear a lot these days (especially from Helen) about how we need to protect parts of our seas and oceans from all sorts of human impacts, including fishing and pollution, if we want to make sure that there are enough fish left in the future to feed ourselves - not to mention protecting nature and biodiversity for its own sake.

But it's really difficult to persuade governments to commit to paying for marine reserves or marine protected areas, and to encourage fishermen to leave some parts of the seas alone.

Now, a new joint study led by North America's Nature Conservancy along with several other conservation organisations and universities has demonstrated that marine conservation is strongly linked to human well-being and quality of life - they've shown that small, well-run marine reserves not only benefit wildlife but also can make a real difference to the lives of people's living close to areas of protected sea.

The study focused on Fiji, the Philippines, the Solomon Islands and Indonesia, where researchers conducted in-depth studies on the levels of health and income among people living near to four well-run marine reserves.

The key findings of the report were that when governments fund small reserves that are run by local communities, real benefits will emerge within just two to three years in terms of the amount of fish caught by fishermen, the income they earn and their overall quality of life.

All the study areas were in a dire state before the reserves were introduced, with fishermen struggling to make a living from dwindling fish stocks.  But it took only a few years for the spill over of fish from the newly established reserves to boost fish catches outside the reserves and help dig the fishermen out of poverty.

The other piece of good news is that local people have also begun to see real benefits from the influx of divers who are increasingly visiting the beautiful, healthy coral reefs inside marine reserves.  The extra income earned from tourism related activities are already being used to pay for better infrastructure in local communities, like water tanks and public toilets, which before couldn't be afforded.

This study has shown how important it is to have local people involved in managing their own marine reserves, giving them a sense of ownership and pride when they see the benefits of their actions.

It's hoped that this study will be shining light to encourage other marine reserves in developing countries to be set up and that governments will see that they make a huge difference by investing in their own marine banks - which ensure that not only the creatures in the seas but also the people living near the seas can lead better, healthier lives.


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