Econostrum | Economic News in the Mediterranean

Plan Bleu promotes the beneficial effects of the marine environment

Written by Michel Neumuller on Wednesday, October 24th 2012 à 17:35 | Read 632 times

"Mediterranean marine ecosystems: The economic value of sustainable benefits" is the study for the Mediterranean published by Plan Bleu.

The coastline is largely built, leading to collective costs and in some cases a decline of Posidonia beds (pictured MN)
The coastline is largely built, leading to collective costs and in some cases a decline of Posidonia beds (pictured MN)
The “sustainable benefits of marine ecosystems in the Mediterranean” have a monetary value of at least €26 billion, according to a study by Plan Bleu, the Regional Activity Centre associated with the Mediterranean Action Plan and the United Nations Environment Programme directed by Anaï Mangos, Jean-Pascal Bassino and Didier Sauzade. “This is not an assessment of the cost of degradation to the environment, but of the value of the well-being Mediterranean populations get from their shared marine environment in a year” points out Anaï Mangos.

In other words, this figure includes income from fishing that makes it possible to maintain an environment that is favourable to the development of marine species, but also coastal tourism and activity funded out of government budgets allocated to the restoration of damaged areas of coastline. The value of all these things can be expressed in monetary terms, provided that they are based on reliable criteria for calculation.

Thus, the three researchers can state, for example, that on preliminary analysis these benefits derived from marine ecosystems are worth €9.2 billion to Italy. Their value to Spain is €4.6 billion, €3.1 billion for Greece and €2.2 billion for France. However, to countries in the south the figures are smaller (€480 million for Lebanon, €680 million for Algeria) and more vague. “The studies and statistics on which these valuations are based are yet to be carried out or specified”, continues Mrs. Mangos. 

A non renewable capital

300,000 professionals around the Mediterranean and millions of consumers are concerned by fishing (pictured MN)
300,000 professionals around the Mediterranean and millions of consumers are concerned by fishing (pictured MN)
Approaching this oft-cited value of benefits derived from marine ecosystems requires a number of theoretical and practical problems that have yet to be addressed in marine environments to be resolved…  “It is an exploratory study”, the study emphasises. For a few years, there has been talk of monetising nature’s benefits, and tools for calculating these benefits are currently being devised. Thus, while the benefits of a marine ecosystem such as seagrass beds – a veritable breeding ground for future fish catches – can be quantified according to their subsequent fish production, it is more difficult to see it as capital, in the economic sense of the term, given its particular renewal

Another difficulty is defining the sustainability of benefits: they should not depend on the degradation of stock considered as critical. And their value cannot be assessed other that on a case-by-case basis, service by service, ecosystem by ecosystem. 

The Plan Bleu study looks at five ecosystems: seagrass beds, coral reefs, rocky sea beds, beds on movable substratum and the expanse of sea referred to here as the “open sea”. The most evident of riches produced by these ecosystems is fish (more than one million tonnes per year caught by 300,000 fishermen). The other known source of wealth is coastal tourism. However, the 35,000 km² of seagrass beds also capture 1.2 million tonnes of CO² each year, which has its equivalent in the form of tradable carbon emission permits. 

 “Calculating the value of benefits derived from ecosystems is a first step in incorporating environmental considerations into the area of development” concludes Anaï Mangos.

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