A pilot project in the Balearic Islands will study the benefits of marine reserves in the Mediterranean

Image: Cala Matzoc-Reserva Llevant. Photo by Sebastià Torrens

Marilles Foundation, together with the Balearic Center for Applied Biology (CBBA) and Ecoacsa, will calculate the marine natural capital of the Llevant Marine Reserve in Mallorca.

The stock of habitats and marine species –our natural capital– generate goods and services for our society. Some of them, such us fisheries or tourism, are visible and can be easily calculated; Others, like the feeling of well-being or enjoyment, are more abstract and difficult to measure. Natural capital accounting makes it possible to visualize the relationship between the natural environment, the economy and human well-being; and it facilitates decision-making by governments and companies for a better conservation of our natural heritage.

The objective of the project is to evaluate the contribution of the Marine Reserve of Llevant of fishing interest (to the of Eastern Mallorca) to the local and regional economy, through traditional fishing and leisure activities related to the marine and coastal environment, among others. The aim is to measure the extent, condition and value of the goods and services of the marine reserve and to identify its beneficiaries. Another purpose of the project is to offer data on the benefits obtained (and could be obtained) from investing in the recovery of degraded marine habitats and the conservation of Balearic marine biodiversity. Ultimately, the project wants to make visible the importance of conserving marine ecosystems of the reserve so that the benefits they generate can be sustained in the future.

The Balearic Islands have a network of marine reserves and protected areas whose value and benefits have often gone unnoticed. The Marine Reserve of fishing interest of Llevant in Mallorca has been chosen due to the quality of the scientific information available; the history associated with its declaration and the relevance of the participation of the economic sectors involved in its declaration and management; also due to the fact that the reserve is managed jointly and exemplary by the state and autonomous fisheries authorities.

As coordinator of Interreg project actions in the Balearic Islands, Marilles Foundation will allocate € 60,000 to carry out the study. The Spanish consultancy Ecoacsa will develop the natural capital accounting system and a guide for its application to other MPAs – with the support of the British consultancy Eftec. The Balearic Center for Applied Biology (CBBA) will carry out field-based work, which will consist of gathering information and perception from local actors.


Image: Detail of a grouper fish.  Foto: Manu San Félix

The marine environment provides us multiple benefits: from the fish we eat, to the enjoyment of bathing and diving in the sea. The more we preserve the medium, the more benefits we obtain. Marine protected areas are an excellent tool to guarantee multiple benefits, but we are often not aware of all that they contribute to our economy and society. This project will allow us to better visualize the relationship between a healthy marine environment and economic health and human well-being. Investing in conservation of the marine environment pays off”.

It is very motivating to advance in a field that will undoubtedly provide economic arguments to justify the maintenance and expansion of the resources that MPAs need. We will have useful information for the community of AMP managers in the Balearic Islands. At a minimum, we ensure that the experience reaches 124 organizations that are part of MedPAN managing a total of 110 AMPs in 21 countries. ”

The scientific evidence shows that believing that nature will continue to provide us with the goods and services necessary for our prosperity and well-being is no longer sustainable. However, this reality is not perceived at scale and with due interest by a wide spectrum of society. Through this project and the application of the natural capital approach, we tackle the exciting challenge of highlighting the many benefits that MPAs conservation generates for the Balearic society and economy. The health of our marine ecosystems depends on the good health of our homes and businesses. ”

Fortunately, awareness regarding marine environment preservation -reflected in many initiatives, including the AMP declaration- is a concept that has already permeated society. However, there are still many citizens who do not find it profitable to dedicate resources to conserving assets that do not provide direct and tangible benefits. That is why I see this initiative so interesting, because apart from facilitating decision-making to managers responsible to MPAs, it can help convince those skeptics.”

What is natural capital?

‘Natural capital’ takes into account the relationship between natural assets, the services they provide, and the benefits society derives from them. The marine environment provides multiple goods and services to the Balearic society, such as food, climate regulation and multiple recreational opportunities. It is essential to improve knowledge about the values that sea and coasts bring to economy to improve its management and invest the necessary resources to protect it.

European project on marine protected areas (MPAs)

Despite the increased coverage of MPAs in the Mediterranean, the objective of maintaining marine biodiversity is far from being met. MPAs face many challenges and have multiple deficiencies in the provision of legal instruments and financial resources, which determine the availability of technical and human resources. The Balearic Islands are not an exception in this regard.

The objective of the European project Interreg Med MPA Networks it is to contribute to the effective management of Mediterranean MPAs, by proposing solutions in four aspects: effective management, small-scale fisheries management, conservation of mobile species and sustainable financing.

Interreg Med MPA is coordinated by MedPAN and brings together ten Mediterranean partners, mainly AMP management bodies from seven countries: Albania, Croatia, France, Greece, Italy, Slovenia and Spain. Marilles Foundation participates as a partner and has the mission of coordinating the implementation of a marine natural capital accounting system in the AMP of  Llevant.

Marilles will export the experience of projects on MPAs in the Balearic Islands and other regions of Spain, while importing examples from other parts of the Mediterranean that may be of interest. The results derived from the pilot project in the Llevant will be connected to those obtained in Spain by the project LIFE IP Intemares, by Biodiversity Foundation, which aims to achieve a network of marine spaces of the Natura 2000 Network managed effectively. The recommendations that emerge from this collaborative work will be aimed at supporting policy improvements at international, European and national levels. 

Why natural capital accounts are useful

Natural capital accounts allow us to have a perspective on the state of our natural capital, its evolution and how its improvement or deterioration affects its ability to continue providing services in the future.

This information enables correct decisions to be made, both from public and private institutions, to identify investment priorities, improve management and invest in conservation. All this opens the doors to the possibility of creating a medium and long-term conservation program; a 25-year program, as it has been developed in other countries.

Natural assets must be managed in order to obtain products and services. For example, fisheries production depends on marine habitats, the quality of waters and currents, and physical factors that guarantee the life cycle of many species. But it is also necessary the effort of fishermen (human capital), boats and nets (physical capital) and all the services and infrastructure.

Image: Fish market. Photo: Marilles Foundation

Image: Canoeing in Menorca. Photo: David Arquimbau

No Comments

Post A Comment