What Americans and Europeans Spend on Ice Cream: $31 Billion Global Cost of Creating Marine Parks to Protect the Oceans: $12-14 Billion

(Washington, D.C.) -- Establishing a global network of marine parks, critical to restoring the health of the oceans and sustaining fishing industries, would cost the global community some $12-14 billion per year, says a study by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. The findings were published today in the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Instead of spending billions on luxury items, let's rescue our seas," said Dr. Andrew Balmford, researcher at the University of Cambridge and lead author of the study, Worldwide Costs of Marine Protected Areas. "This investment of $12-14 billion would help safeguard, and over time increase, a global fish catch worth $70-80 billion per year. With fisheries in steep decline, and with rates of habitat loss now equal or exceeding that of rainforests, this connect-the-dots design for marine protected areas would create between 830,000 and 1.1 million full-time jobs and fortify fragile marine ecosystems in the process."

The authors of the study surveyed the running costs of 83 well-managed marine parks worldwide. Annual spending varied enormously, from a few dollars to $72 million per square mile per year. "The estimated cost of creating these parks does not factor in expected gains from protected areas to fisheries," said co-author and professor at the University of York, Callum Roberts.

Marine parks promote the recovery of fish stocks within their borders and export fish and their offspring into fishing grounds. Well managed parks have often doubled catches in surrounding fisheries. Even a 20 percent catch enhancement arising from the global park system, a conservative estimate, would pay for management costs."

Taking into account the present income shortfall, the study estimated the running costs of a global system of marine parks that would protect 20-30 percent of the world's seas. Costs lay between $5 billion and $19 billion annually with the most likely range of figures from $12.4 to 13.9 billion for 30 percent coverage and $9.5 to 10.4 billion for 20 percent coverage.

At the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002, coastal nations pledged to turn the tide on this decline by creating national networks of marine parks by 2012. "But until now, it has been unclear how much it will cost countries to deliver on their promises," said Scott Burns, director of WWF's Marine Conservation program. "Making this commitment to marine protection will require international effort on an unprecedented scale. Just half a percent of the sea lies within marine parks today, compared to 12 percent of the land."

Notes to editors:

  • Fish stocks have fallen to 10 percent or less of their numbers at the onset of commercial fishing. An ambitious marine park program could be instituted for less than the $15 to $30 billion already spent each year on economically and environmentally damaging subsidies to commercial fisheries. Those subsidies support excess capacity in fisheries that might provide short-term job security, but carry major long-term costs and risks.


  • According to the authors, costs were higher for parks that were smaller, closer to coasts, and in developed countries. However, parks surveyed said their present income only accounted for half the amount needed to achieve ideal conservation management standards.


  • The World Parks Congress in 2003 recommended that, to restore marine ecosystems and rebuild fish stocks, at least 20-30 percent of every marine habitat be protected from fishing.


  • Regarding luxury consumption: Americans spend an estimated $20 billion on ice cream, while Europeans spend $11 billion. The global population spends: $18 billion worldwide on facial cosmetics, $15 billion on perfumes and $14 billion on ocean cruises (Source: State of the World 2004, Worldwatch Institute).


  • Photographs, illustrating several successful marine protected areas around the world, are available from Professor Callum Roberts.

    "Worldwide Costs of Marine Protected Areas," (PDF format, 486k) by Andrew Balmford, Pippa Gravestock, Neal Hockley, Colin J. McClean and Callum M. Roberts. Published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, 14th June 2004.

    Dr Andrew Balmford is at the Conservation Biology Group, Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EJ, UK; tel./fax.: + 44 1223 331770; email: [email protected]

    Professor Callum Roberts is at the Environment Department of the University of York in Britain. He can be contacted at tel: +44 1904 434066 or 434073, fax: +44 1904 432998, and email: [email protected]

    Scott Burns, Marine Conservation Program, WWF-US, +1 202 778 9547, and email: [email protected]