'Nature’s Investment Bank' Report Finds Marine Conservation Can Reduce Poverty

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Study suggests efforts to protect the ocean environment and improve livelihoods in the developing world can be mutually beneficial.

Well-managed, locally-supported marine reserves in the Asia-Pacific region can significantly help reduce poverty and enhance the quality of life for residents of local communities, according to a new study, "Nature’s Investment Bank," released today by The Nature Conservancy.

“This important study demonstrates that conservation and human well-being are indelibly linked,” said Stephanie Meeks, acting president and CEO of The Nature Conservancy. “It’s clear from this study that taking steps to protect vital natural systems, such as through the establishment of marine protected areas, provides clear benefits to people as well as wildlife.”

Governments around the world are wrestling with questions about whether investments in conservation benefit the lives of extremely impoverished people. The Nature’s Investment Bank study provides new, tangible evidence that these investments do bring about measurable economic and quality of life benefits.

Co-authored by Nature Conservancy policy advisor Craig Leisher, Dutch economist Dr. Peter van Beukering, and Brazilian/Australian social scientist Dr. Lea M. Scherl, this study found that restoration of local resources – be they fisheries or coral reefs – increased fish catch and economic opportunities, improved community health, and directly enhanced the lives of local residents.

“When marine protected areas are developed with government support, scientific data, and are managed primarily by local communities that take pride in the management of their natural resources, significant improvements in quality of life can be seen,” said Craig Leisher, co-author of the study. “Building networks of resilient marine protected areas will help maintain the food and income necessary to support coastal communities as well as curb the use of destructive fishing techniques, and enable coral reefs to survive the impacts of climate change.”

As a Fijian community leader from Waiqanake village named Weku Ratumainaceva noted, “The marine protected area is like a bank to the people. Opening more branches of the ‘bank’ in developing countries can contribute to coastal poverty reduction.”

The study team conducted more than 1,100 interviews within poor communities in four countries and, using rigorous scientific methodology endorsed by several leading environmental economists and social scientists, analyzed the effect of marine protected areas at four very different sites:

•    In Indonesia’s Bunaken National Marine Park, local communities benefited from an increase in incomes from dive tourism and a share in revenue from park fees. Interestingly, marine protected area fishers in Bunaken also spent approximately 50 percent less time per year fishing than fishers in an area without a marine protected area, yet their income was roughly equal – suggesting that the protected area fishers have more time to invest in other activities.

•    In Fiji’s Navakavu Locally Managed Marine Area, poverty was reduced by increased fish and shellfish catches (the #1 source of income for the local community), and local incomes more than doubled for the community’s 600 people.

•    In the Solomon Islands Arnavon Community Marine Conservation Area, communities saw better governance and more productive management of Arnavon’s marine resources, leading to cooperation on many other community problems as well as greater food security and better public health.

•    On Apo Island in the Philippines, local communities also experienced greater incomes and better public health, due in large part to greater fish catches, more protein, and better nutrition. In addition, increased revenues from tourism were invested to improve local education and healthcare.

The worldwide poverty crisis has risen to the forefront of global issues, and with nearly 3 billion people around the world living on the equivalent of US$2 a day or less, millions are forced to make decisions that damage their environment in order to feed themselves and their families.

When poverty increases, fish stocks are depleted. Fishers are often driven to use destructive methods to catch what little is left, damaging the reefs and fish habitat that produce the food local communities depend upon for survival. With every 5 percent loss of coral reefs, 250,000-500,000 tons of fish are lost as well, threatening food security for millions.

This study highlights the importance of protecting these ocean habitats, to both preserve essential marine life and reduce poverty in coastal areas – not only in Asia-Pacific but across many impoverished coastal communities around the globe.

"Nature’s Investment Bank" was co-funded by the Nature Conservancy, Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, the Australian Government and WWF-Indonesia, and was completed in collaboration with local NGOs and universities in each of the four study sites.

The report and an accompanying film can be viewed at: http://www.nature.org/mpapovertystudy

The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. To date, the Conservancy and its more than one million members have been responsible for the protection of more than 15 million acres in the United States and have helped preserve more than 102 million acres in Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at http://www.nature.org.

Contact:

Cristina Mestre

cmestre@tnc.org

+1.703-841-8779 (U.S. and Australia)

Tri Soekirman

tsoekirman@tnc.org

+62.812.385.0155 (Indonesia)

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