This is the Squid’s speech from the launch of The Economics of Marine Protected Areas by Allen Consulting Group.
At the Conservation Council, and as a Save Our Marine Life, we understand that seeking to protect large areas of the ocean in marine sanctuaries is a serious business.
We understand that there are major economic implications to be considered, and that is why we undertook to engage a respected and fully independent economics agency to examine the implications of our proposals for a network of large marine sanctuaries in WA’s southwest.
The scientific and environmental benefits of marine sanctuaries are already well documented, a recent example being the McCook et al paper from Queensland published in February by a who’s who of Australian marine scientists in the Proceedings of the US National Academy of sciences.
The research showed that only five years after a network of large marine sanctuaries were created on the Great Barrier Reef there have been an extraordinary range of benefits, including increased fish stocks, benefits for threatened species and greater resilience against introduced pests like the crown of thorns starfish.
Late last year further scientific weight was thrown behind the case for large marine sanctuaries with over 50 practicing marine scientists signing onto a consensus statement supporting the benefits of large marine sanctuaries.
The consistent finding of studies is that large marine sanctuaries result in a dramatic increase in the size, number and diversity of fish and other marine life.
The missing piece in the case was the economics of marine sanctuaries.
So we are pleased today to present the work of Allen Consulting Group, The Economics of Marine Protected Areas.
This report is the first public report in Australia to examine all the costs and benefits of marine sanctuaries. It carefully lays out a methodology to assess these costs and benefits in a balanced way.
This report lays out for all to see the economic costs and benefits of protecting the marine environment. The findings of this report finally bridge the gap between the science of marine protection and the economic impacts of marine protection.
The report shows that there is a win-win scenario for WA and communities of the south west in establishing a network of large marine sanctuaries.
Benefits include a boost to ecotourism of 20%, taking the sector to $55 million, with continued growth expected as the health and reputation of WA’s marine environment increase over time. Other benefits include the spill over for fisheries from healthy marine sanctuaries into surrounding waters and greater certainty for fisheries against mismanagement and unforeseen changes.
The study also found that impacts on the recreational fishing industry would be significantly less than previously claimed.
The rock lobster industry would face short term costs, but there would also be longer term benefits such as more sustainable catches and spill over from marine sanctuaries.
Finally, the study found that West Australian’s place a high value on marine protection, indicating that the value the public places on protection of WA’s marine environment could be as high as $200 million per year. This is consistent with polling that shows a high level of public support for protection of the marine environment.
In the long term, the benefits of establishing a network of marine sanctuaries far outweigh the costs. This study completes a ‘golden triangle’ of opportunity for WA to benefit economically, environmentally and scientifically from establishing a network of large marine sanctuaries.
Report is available at Allen consulting website.
A summary of science benefits of marine sanctuaries here.