According to the study MPAs can  deliver conservation and  economic benefits, while not impeding conservation goals. However, the economic exploitation of resources in an MPA must be sustainable.

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The study identifies that there is a need for adequate funding, effective management and enforcement of MPAs if such benefits are to be lasting.

In addition, the implementation of effective MPA management regimes, along with expectations of potential market benefits, can incentivize businesses to change current practices or invest in new opportunities. These measures could reduce their environmental impact and enable the activity to continue within the MPA.

These changes will bring costs, but sustainable businesses can also result in long-term benefits. For example, improving the long-term viability of an activity by maintaining or improving the underlying natural capital.

Nevertheless, there are few comprehensive cost benefit analyses of MPAs. Existing studies comparing the costs and benefits of MPAs use an ecosystem services framework and note that a large proportion of benefits relate to non-market improvements in societal welfare rather than real economy benefits to sectors.

These studies also conclude that the overall welfare benefits of MPAs are more than total costs. However, regarding impacts to the real economy - market benefits to blue economy sectors, there is little evidence examining the costs and benefits for any given sector.

Credit: European Commission

Who MPAs benefit?

Tourism and fishing are among the sectors mostly benefited from MPAs. However, their benefits can be seen in the wider blue economy. In fact, evidence suggest that tourism and parts of the commercial fishing sector could also receive benefits based on improvements in biodiversity, the environment and ecosystem services.

Nonetheless, these are not the only sectors that MPAs benefit. Conservation management, investment in habitat restoration and biological research, monitoring and surveillance technology and providers of environmental consulting services, could also be improved by MPAs.

A properly administered, enforced and monitored MPA is essential for the potential benefits to materialise. And additional individual and institutional effort and investment is often necessary to capitalise on them

The report concludes.

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