Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) have long been advocated as effective management vehicles for promoting long-term conservation of marine resources and biodiversity. However MPAs are failing in their conservation goals, impeded by insufficient funds and a heavy reliance by low-income populations on natural resources.

Investigation into a potential payment for environmental services (PES) program for marine protection was conducted in La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico. Surveys elicited tourists’ willingness to pay (WTP) to reduce fishing pressure in Espíritu Santo Marine Park. Interviews with local fishermen investigated necessary levels of compensation in order to cease fishing, by proxy of required salaries in alternative employment outside of the fishing sector.

Results indicated that required compensation values outweighed WTP by the tourist sector. Median WTP per trip amounted to US$12.50 and US$30, additional to pre-existing price, for day excursions and longer trips respectively. Median willingness to accept of fishermen was approximately US$135 per week, at time of survey, and required compensation was US$60 per week. Aggregated median WTP was able to cover annual compensation costs for approximately half of the fishing population. That fish stocks were not in collapse, thereby not creating sufficient scarcity and decreasing opportunity costs, and potential high transaction costs were identified as constraints of the proposed PES scheme.

However, PES for marine protection should not be dismissed entirely; sites which are less productive and where fishermen’s opportunity costs are low will be more suited to such a compensation scheme. Furthermore PES can work alongside existing markets.


Barr, R.F., and Mourato, S. November 2009. Investigating the potential for marine resource protection through environmental service markets: an exploratory study from La Paz Mexico. Ocean & Coastal Management, v.52.

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