Sustainable Financing of Marine Protected Areas in the Mediterranean: a Guide for MPA Managers

Pilot areas
Local authorities, Marine Protected Area (MPA) managers
Fisheries, MPA management
Business planning, co-management, concession fees, finance, fisheries, management, management plan, Marine Protected Area, Mediterranean, MPA, revolving fund, visitor fees


Historically, Mediterranean MPAs have relied on government and donor funding. However, these financing sources are generally insufficient and are often inconsistent and unsustainable. This can be largely attributed to the lack of reliable information on costs to establish and manage MPAs and on the methodology to establish an effective financial strategy. Climate change and increasing pressures from tourism and coastal development, may further amplify the funding problem.

Therefore, there is an urgent need for Mediterranean MPAs to find diversified and sustainable self-generated financing mechanisms to close this financing gap and to sustain their conservation activities.

Aim of the tool

This Guide, developed in 2020 by BlueSeeds, aims to strengthen the financial sustainability of the MPA network in the Mediterranean Sea with a step-by-step approach. This guide is a continuation of work initiated in 2015 by Vertigo Lab, MedPAN, SPA/RAC and WWF Mediterranean.

Main objectives

The objectives of this Guide are to help MPA managers establish:

  1. A financial strategy, including how to identify the financing gap between existing resources and financial needs and prepare an MPA Business Plan, using MedPLAN, a business plan tool specifically developed; and
  2. A set of three market-based sustainable financing mechanisms to close the financing gap: visitors fees, concession fees and revolving funds for sustainable fisheries.


Technological infrastructure

No technological infrastructure is required to design and implement this Guide except for a computer with a spreadsheet editor and an internet connection to run the MedPLAN Tool (necessary to elaborate the financial strategy).

A current management plan with clear conservation objectives is a prerequisite for developing a sustainable financing strategy. In the absence of such a plan, it is necessary to at least have a clear vision of your main conservation objectives and a temporal roadmap to achieve them.


A series of training videos and tutorial tools have been prepared by BlueSeeds to explain how to use the MedPLAN Tool for the purpose of preparing an MPA Business Plan. These videos and tools are freely available on YouTube. Concession revenues require technical capacity to identify viable concession opportunities, negotiate contracts and to establish appropriate concession fees. In addition, technical capacity for the management and monitoring of concessionaires to ensure compliance and environmental sustainability, is also required.


No investments are necessary to implement the provisions included in this Guide. The MedPLAN Tool is freely available and can be downloaded from MedPAN’s website.

An initial investment in terms of budget, time and staff, however, is necessary to implement the visitor fees mechanism. In general, dedicated MPA staff should be available to plan and implement the three proposed market-based self-financing mechanisms (visitor fees, concession fees and revolving funds for sustainable fisheries).



This Guide includes a step-by-step approach to help MPAs to develop a financial strategy and Business Plan. The objectives of the proposed financial strategy are to:

  1. Provide an overview of costs and revenues,
  2. Improve the administrative management and performance of funding,
  3. Integrate and strengthen capacities, and
  4. Develop a diversified and stable or secure income portfolio.

This process is supported by the MedPLAN tool, a spreadsheet that contains formulas to automatically calculate the financing gap of an MPA as the difference between revenues and costs.

Moreover, this Guide proposes three methodologies for the implementation of sustainable financing mechanisms that allow MPAs to reduce their costs and generate additional revenues: visitor fees, concession fees and a revolving fund for sustainable fisheries. For each of these market-based self-financing mechanisms, a detailed description is proposed of the opportunities, prerequisites, implementation process, and of a case study where the measure has been implemented.

Pilot areas

In the process of preparing this Guide, the MedPLAN Tool was first used by nine MPA management organisations over the course of one month. Activities alternated between phases of independent work on their business plans using also video tutorials, and bilateral work sessions with the trainers.

Recommended timeline of implementation

Financial Strategy

The process to develop a financial strategy is articulated along the following phases:

  1. Planning future costs, necessary to achieve the conservation objectives of the MPA management plan;
  2. Assessing past and present funding sources;
  3. Planning future revenues of your MPA;
  4. Assessing the financing gap (i.e. the difference between the financial means and the financial needs) using the MedPLAN tool;
  5. Cost reduction (i.e. minimise planned costs);
  6. Reviewing income from existing funding sources, establishing a strategy to secure and increase these revenues; and
  7. Implementing new financing mechanisms, to close the financial gap and diversify the revenue portfolio.

Market-based mechanisms

A detailed description is included of each step to follow to implement the three market-based self-financing mechanisms proposed.


A toolbox is proposed with possible issues and solutions for each proposed market-based self-financing mechanism.


Quantitative results

By applying the principles and tools proposed by this Guide, it is expected that MPA managers will improve the financing of their MPAs and better support their management measures.

Key deliverables

The Guide provides useful practical knowledge for improving managers’ financial planning skills. It also provides guidance on potential sources of funding which may supplement current funding, including innovative financial mechanisms.

Transfer potential

This Guide can be used by managers of all Mediterranean MPAs in order to strengthen and sustain their conservation activities over time. The wider use of this Guide and of the MedPLAN tool may contribute to the achievement of Strategic Objective no.5 of the Post-2020 Mediterranean Roadmap on financial sustainability: ‘ Provide support for the long-term financial sustainability of MPAs through capacity development and sustainable financing mechanisms including trust funds’.


  • A 2015 Vertigo Lab study indicated that only 12% of the financial needs to ensure the effective management of Mediterranean MPAs are covered by current financial resources.
  • In the Bonaire National Marine Park (Netherlands Antilles), about 80-90% of revenues come from park use fees, for example, US$ 45/year for scuba divers and US$ 25/year for other users, while only 10-20% of funds come from grants.
  • The Brijuni National Park (Croatia) has been financially independent for several years, thanks to the successful development of a concession programme around tourism activities such as boat tours, diving and kayaking.
  • In the Al Hoceima National Park (Morocco), a revolving fund to promote artisanal fisheries was implemented, including the ban of use of drift gillnets, with more than 450 boats, 12 thousand tonnes of fish caught each year and 59,000 boat trips per year.

For further information

This guide is a continuation of work initiated in 2015 by Vertigo Lab, MedPAN, SPA/RAC and WWF Mediterranean (Binet et al. 2015a and 2015b). The guide can be accessed through the link below.



BlueSeeds (2020) Financing mechanisms: A Guide for Mediterranean Marine Protected Areas. BlueSeeds, MAVA Foundation.

Links of interest:

Sustainable financing of Marine Protected Areas in the Mediterranean – A guide for MPA managers

MedPLAN tool

Online training materials:

  1. The financial needs of MPAs
  2. Business Planning for MPAs (MedPLAN tool)
  3. Reducing costs and optimising revenues of a marine protected area
  4. Choosing appropriate financing mechanisms for one’s marine protected area
  5. Examples of self-financing mechanisms for one’s marine protected area


  • ACCOBAMS – Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans in the Black Sea Mediterranean Sea and Contigous Atlantic Area
  • ACG – Association de la Continuité des Générations
  • AGIR Association
  • APAL – Coastal Protection and Development Agency
  • Blue World Institute of Marine Research and Conservation
  • Cetacean Studies Center
  • Columbares association
  • Conservatoire du littoral – International Unit
  • DMAD – Marine Mammals Research Association
  • Eco-ocean
  • Enalia Physis Environmental Research Centre
  • Environment and Resources Authority (ERA)
  • FEDERPARCHI – Italian Federation of Natural Parks and Reserves
  • French Biodiversity Office
  • Fundacion Biodiversidad
  • General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM)
  • General Secretariat of Fisheries – Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
  • Grouper Study Group
  • INCA – Institute for Nature Conservation in Albania
  • IUCN – International Union for Conservation of Nature – Mediterranean Center for Cooperation
  • Interdisciplinary Study Center Gaiola in charge of the Gaiola Underwater Park
  • MEDCEM – Mediterranean Center for Environmental Monitoring
  • Marevivo
  • Marine Explorers Society – 20000 leagues
  • Marine Life Conservation Society
  • Mediterranean Conservation Society (akdeniz koruma dernegi)
  • Mediterranean Small Islands Initiative
  • Medwet
  • Miraceti
  • Morigenos – Slovenian Marine Mammals Society
  • Planète Mer
  • RODPAL – Network of NGOs in the National Park of Al Hoceima
  • Royal Albanian Foundation
  • SAD – Underwater Research Society
  • SPA/RAC – Specially Protected Areas Regional Activity Centre
  • Septentrion Environnement
  • Sharklab ADRIA – Centre for marine and freshwater biology
  • Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon
  • Sunce – Association for Nature, Environment and Sustainable Development
  • TUDAV – Turkish Marine Research Foundation
  • Tour du Valat
  • WWF Greece
  • WWF Mediterranean Programme Office
  • “DelTA” association
  • “Le Dauphin” association
  • “Notre Grand Bleu” association
  • “Posidonia Center for Development and Resources” NGO