Our oceans are facing a catastrophic decline of biodiversity and fish biomass. With less than 3% of our oceans strictly protected in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) there is an urgent need to both increase the amount of MPAs to approximately 30% of the world's oceans, as well as manage them more effectively. The main objective of MPAs is to protect key habitats and biodiversity, increase climate resilience, and increase the populations of fish and other marine life. For MPAs to be successful, they will require strong local support and hence they also need to support the local community's well being and livelihoods. One of the main benefits of MPAs, outside fish spillover effects, is increased tourism potential. Often the local community, especially in developing countries, lacks the skills and investment to benefit from tourism. The money is generated for outsiders and park fees go to the local authority/government; therefore they do not have an incentive to support the MPA and may continue to catch endangered species and charismatic megafauna in order to make an income (turtle eggs, sharks, rays, high-value fish). There is an urgent need for solutions that will directly bring rewards to local communities and incentivize them to support MPAs as well as other marine management measures.
Objective: To create a direct payment system from tourists to the local communities that will motivate the community to support marine conservation and not harvest vulnerable species. Solution: An application for a financial reward scheme which operates through tour operators working collectively in an area and logging marine life sightings with tourists, who pay a small fee per selected animal sighted (e.g. 50 cents). The payment and sightings information is then transferred securely to directly to local communities. Benefits: This will directly and transparently show financial benefits over time and directly link the benefits to marine animal population changes. It will Incentivize the local community to support the MPA or other managament structure and to provide an internal policing, social pressure within the community to control the bad behaviors of certain individuals who may break MPA regulations. This empowers the visitors, tourism operators, and local community members to address a critical problem that is key to marine conservation success. The advantages include: - Does not depend on bi-lateral or NGO funding so can scale through private sectors. - Provides citizen science. Requirements: Will work best in a context where there is a known problem in the area, i.e. shark finning, over fishing and where the community is lacking incentive to change. The area needs to have marine-based tourism operations.
Communities don't support MPAs because they don't benefit from them.
The perception of fraud is often a problem in initiatives where money is involved.
Community social and peer pressure can help control difficult individuals.
Communities have mechanisms to democratically distribute money and invest in beneficial projects.
The tourism sector lacks effective ways to work with communities to enhance protection.
Tourists are willing to pay a small fee for conservation benefits from their activities and increased chance to see marine life.
This can scale though the private sector and empower them to be part of the solution to biodiversity crisis.
Marine wildlife is not only intrinsically valuable to humans but also has value in itself, alive, and hence should be can also generate an income beyond fishing and killing. But so far, the distribution of this income mainly from the tourism secotor is often far from equitable. The project will be a breakthrough through this obstacle by directly paying benefits to a local community living in. For the fist time this benefit will be directly correlated to the population recovery and resulting sightings frequency of key marine animal populations (sharks, rays, dugongs, turtles, cetaceans etc). Another obstacle to financial programs is fraud - the money does not always go where it is supposed to. We are addressing this by using a transparent system, visible to all stakeholders, therefore, ensuring that every player in the system knows how many tourism dollars - making fraud harder to get away with and easier to uncover.
Get inputs on our prototype from the pilot sites and develop the first version 1.0 of our product and roll it out.
- We need to identify a marketing and launch plan that will reach as many potential users as possible, this can include engaging relevant environmental NGOs to promote it in their project areas as well as directly reaching out to the tourism sector and marine park authorities in relevant forums.