Protected marine sites pay off

Sites in Hawaii, Fiji and the Philippines show that protecting vulnerable parts of the ocean pays off for business and the environment, marine experts said.

Protected sites ultimately provide higher and more sustained income through tourism and controlled fishing than continued exploitation, experts from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature said.

Along the western coast of Hawaii, marine sites were placed under protection in 1999 after years of over-harvesting of fish destined for aquariums. Eight years later, the total catch in those and surrounding areas was higher than in the previous 40 years and an increasing number of tourists were drawn to the area, said Carl Gustaf Lundin, a conservation spokesman.

Near Viti Levu Island in Fiji, the finfish harvest increased by 3 percent four years after the area was placed under marine protection. The increased harvest meant a total revenue increase of $28,700 for local communities, a conservation case study said.

Fishermen in the Tawi-Tawi province in the Philippines increased their income by about 20 percent just one year after the Kulape-Batu-Batu marine area was designated as a protected marine sanctuary, Lundin said.