User fees to fund marine protected areas

Some marine protected areas (MPAs) have been mostly or entirely financed by user fees.

Policy in practice

› Regions: Americas, Asia

› Countries: Netherlands, Philippines

› Tags: User fees, Marine protected area

While domestic government budgets and international donor assistance have formed the bulk of MPA financing worldwide, other sources of finance -- such as user fees -- also exist. User fees are collected from resource users, including tourists, who chose to access a service or facility. These types of fees are already being applied in a number of MPAs worldwide and are set at various levels depending on their purpose (e.g. cost recovery vs. visitor management to reduce congestion and/or ecological damage), type (e.g. general entrance fees, diving/snorkeling or research fees) and the prevailing local socio-economic characteristics of the region (e.g. number of visitors, income levels, price elasticity of demand).

Some MPAs have been mostly or entirely financed via user fees:

  • The Bonaire Marine Park in the Netherlands Antilles had, as of 2010, self-financed all operations since 1992 through dive entrance fees, boat entrance fees and mooring fees. A 2005 raise in Bonaire’s annual fees to USD 25 and USD 10 for divers and non-divers, respectively, created a revenue stream conservatively estimated at USD 760 000, far higher than the 2002 operating budget of USD 270 000. The surplus was used for the nearby Washington-Slagbaai terrestrial park, which also provides upstream ecological benefits to the marine park.

  • Malaysia’s Kota Kinabalu National Park raises approximately 80% of its operating expenses from user fees.

  • In the Philippines, the Gilotongan Marine Reserve has appeared to meet all of its funding needs through tourism fees, in fact realising a profit on the order of USD 85 000 in 2012.

Source report

OECD (2017), Marine Protected Areas: Economics, Management and Effective Policy Mixes, p. 120

Key policy message

A suite of financing options - including well-designed user fees - can be used to help cover the costs of marine protected areas (MPAs).