Conservation Strategy Fund helps local conservationists use economic tools to find smart, efficient solutions to the most urgent environmental problems. Since its creation in 1998, CSF has conducted dozens of analysis projects in forests, rivers and coastal environments. Most of our work has focused in the tropics, where extraordinarily high levels of biological diversity are found. To maximize the reach and quality of our work, we involve leading experts and conservation organizations in all of our projects.

What do fishermen truly stand to lose from the creation of large MPAs? Comparing claims with actual economic costs

CSF is investigating the fishing-related opportunity costs of existing large-scale marine protected areas (MPAs) using Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (PMNM), Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument (PRI), the Palau National Sanctuary (PNS) and the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA) as case studies. Specifically, CSF is working to evaluate the extent to which fishing regulations have been implemented at each MPA.

During the process of creating large-scale MPAs, there has been near unanimous and unrelenting opposition by fishermen, who assert that large-scale MPAs will deprive them of income. For example, in Hawaii, claims were made that the expansion of PMNM would reduce catches by 10% (1) and that fishermen would lose $6.83 million (2). Similar claims were made during the proposal to expand the PRI. Most of the fishing that is affected by the MPAs use longlines and purse seine gear.

Field data have not supported these claims. When PRI was expanded in 2014, the landings of fish in Honolulu remained unchanged from the previous year because the fishery is not restricted geographically (the boats fish in and outside the US EEZ), but by an annual quota.

Our analysis intends to show the true fisheries losses associated with establishment of large-scale MPAs. For PMNM and PRI, we will estimate the short-term opportunity cost of each MPAs’ restrictions in terms of foregone profits from fishing, using data from published and gray literature, as well as data available from local government and related sources. For PNS and PIPA, we will predict expected losses in fishing profits through consultation with experts, while taking into account the amount of pre-MPA fishing effort and the experts’ understanding of the location and fisheries outside of MPAs.

At the end of our analysis, CSF will publish a detailed report discussing the short-term opportunity costs associated with MPAs, using PMNM, PRI, PNS and PIPA as examples as well as two policy briefs.

Support for this project was provided by the Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy Project.




Photo: Palau. Photo Credit: Shutterstock/ BlueOrange Studio