>By providing sustainable employment opportunities and injecting lease fees into local economies, these MPAs use ecotourism to enhance ocean protection. As these communities and private enterprises forge long-term, mutually dependent relationships, both gain constant reminders of the value of the MPAs. Here we take a closer look at four success stories.
>In the Philippines, where dive tourism is a well-established industry, communities recognize the important role marine sanctuaries play in attracting divers and enriching local economies.
>Panabulan Sanctuary — Dumaguete, Philippines
>Ten years ago, Panabulan Sanctuary in Maayong Tubig (Negros Oriental) was established to protect an important stretch of healthy reefs. Seven years later it was expanded to include an area with large numbers of mandarinfish, and it now covers about 32 acres. Atmosphere Resorts has done an incredible job fostering community stewardship of the sanctuary's reefs. Coral cover and coral health have noticeably improved. The area now teems with rare and exciting macrolife such as mandarinfish, frogfish, flamboyant cuttlefish, ghostpipefish and tiny lobsters. Turtles are also found in greater numbers, resting and feeding undisturbed in the protected waters.
>Divers, snorkelers and swimmers pay entry fees that cover upkeep costs and salaries for guards. Other community members work as dive guides and resort employees; shared benefits ensure the long-term sustainability of these sanctuaries.
>In 2005 Misool Eco Resort partnered with the local community to stop rampant shark finning and unchecked fishing in South Raja Ampat. These activities — perpetrated by outsiders — devastated local fishing grounds and threatened the health of some of Earth's most biodiverse reefs. Misool Eco Resort secured a lease to establish a marine conservation agreement (MCA) that covers 140 square miles in which all fishing and other extractive practices are strictly prohibited. In 2010 the partners expanded the agreement to create a 160-square-mile MCA in the nearby Daram Islands. In concert with the Nature Conservancy and WildAid, Misool Eco Resort is now working to establish and enforce a series of MCAs in southern Raja Ampat.
>Regular, locally staffed patrols have eliminated shark finning, turtle hunting, illegal fishing and all other extractive practices inside the MCA. The entire reef ecosystem is now protected, and previously depleted stocks of vulnerable marine species are rebounding.
>These MCAs ensure the long-term health of fish stocks and the reef. Spillover to surrounding waters creates abundant, sustainable catches for villagers. Communities also benefit directly from lease income, municipal projects and employment. Thanks to this partnership, local people are active stakeholders in a system that guarantees long-term preservation and shared enjoyment of their natural heritage.
>Fishermen now report better catches at the perimeter of the protected area than they previously saw in the entire area. As a result, the community has gained an appreciation for the benefits of reef resource management, which includes increased income from fisheries. Regular payments to the villages and job opportunities in the resort provide compelling economic incentives to the communities to preserve sections of the reefs for tourism purposes only.
>Today, compliance with sanctuary rules is high, and the partnership between the resort and the local villages has proven to be one of the most successful and economical conservation approaches in the region.
>In 1979 the local villages designated all of Tulamben Bay as an MPA, prohibiting fishing inside the bay. With great foresight, Tulamben recognized the potential for dive tourism to create sustainable and lasting employment opportunities for the community. The strategy paid off, and today Tulamben is home to resorts including Tauch Terminal and Paradise, which are considered two of Bali's top dive destinations.
>The area boasts an incredible array of life including reef sharks, humphead parrotfish, groupers, jacks, barracudas and unusual critters such as pygmy seahorses, nudibranchs, harlequin shrimp, ribbon eels, seadragons and stonefish. In addition, the Liberty wreck, just 100 feet from shore and in only 95 feet of water, is one of the most accessible and striking wreck dives in the world.
>Historically, local communities and their economies were often excluded from the benefits of tourism. A growing number of coastal communities are partnering with private businesses to establish local MPAs, the success of which hinge upon community participation and support. Engaging local people in conservation and ensuring they benefit directly from it creates sustainable conservation outcomes, protecting our marine resources for generations to come.
>Shared Responsibility, Shared Benefits
>© Alert Diver — Fall 2012