Jonathan Colmer, University of Virginia

"The Economics of Marine Conservation"


The world's oceans provide crucial services that make our planet habitable. When access rights are not effectively managed, however, over-fishing and environmental degradation threaten these services. Marine Protected Areas are argued to be one of the most effective policies for restoring marine life. However, for MPAs to produce economic and ecological benefits it is necessary that they deliver meaningful reductions in economic activity. Using comprehensive global data on the locations and activity of >70,000 commercial fishing vessels between 2012 and 2019 we provide systematic evidence that MPAs have historically had little effect on reducing fishing activity. More than 60% of the MPAs in our sample do not deliver any reductions in fishing activity. We estimate larger reductions for MPAs that have more restrictions and that are located in areas with greater fishing activity; however, we directly observe fishing activity in the most strict "no-take'' marine reserves. Overall, our findings suggest that the efficacy of MPAs is highly dependent on their design and management.

Contact person: Neda Trifkovic