Andrew Balmford et al.Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A.2004.
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Declines in marine harvests, wildlife, and habitats have prompted calls at both the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development and the 2003 World Parks Congress for the establishment of a global system of marine protected areas (MPAs). MPAs that restrict fishing and other human activities conserve habitats and populations and, by exporting biomass, may sustain or increase yields of nearby fisheries. Here we provide an estimate of the costs of a global MPA network, based on a survey of the running costs of 83 MPAs worldwide. Annual running costs per unit area spanned six orders of magnitude, and were higher in MPAs that were smaller, closer to coasts, and in high-cost, developed countries. Models extrapolating these findings suggest that a global MPA network meeting the World Parks Congress target of conserving 20-30% of the world's seas might cost between 5 billion and 19 billion US dollars annually to run and would probably create around one million jobs. Although substantial, gross network costs are less than current government expenditures on harmful subsidies to industrial fisheries. They also ignore potential private gains from improved fisheries and tourism and are dwarfed by likely social gains from increasing the sustainability of fisheries and securing vital ecosystem services.