The living resources of the Pacific Ocean represent a rich natural capital. Marine and coastal ecosystems provide benefits for all people in and beyond the region. These benefits are called ecosystem services and include a broad range of connections between the environment, development and human well-being.
Yet, the natural capital of the ocean is invisible. It needs to be made visible to stakeholders, decision-makers and politicians. Truly recognizing the value of such resources can help to highlight their importance. Once more values are visible, governments and stakeholders in the five project countries can maximize the economic and social benefits of marine and coastal biodiversity.
Every time we make a decision that affects nature, we are implicitly putting a value on the environment. For example, if we choose to clear mangroves in order to build shrimp ponds, a trade-off is made between the ecosystem services provided by the mangroves and the new development.
If decision makers are not fully aware of the long-term benefits provided by the mangroves they may make a decision that is not in the best interest of society and the people who rely upon the ecosystem services that mangroves provide. It is then probable that such a decision may have negative impacts on society and the environment at large.
Economic valuation of ecosystem services provides useful information to help decision-makers weigh up what will be lost or gained by making a decision. Having access to reliable information on the values of marine ecosystem services in Pacific Island nations facilitates more objective, transparent and informed decision-making.
The advantage of using economic valuation instead of, for example, only tons of fish catch, is that the values of ecosystem services are measured by the common unit of money. This unit can be directly compared with the values of other goods and services in the economy and is understood globally. More over valuation adds a multi-dimensional perspective on living resources.
Valuation of marine resources can serve a variety of policy and resource management applications.
Information on the economic value of ecosystem services can be used to:
• Raise awareness of the value of the marine environment
• Reveal the distribution of costs and benefits of resource uses among winners and losers
• Design the most effective tools for marine environmental management
• Design appropriate fees for the use of marine ecosystem services
• Calculate potential returns on investment for projects that impact the marine environment
• Compare costs and benefits of different uses of the marine and coastal environment
• Calculate values for marine ecosystem services for input into natural capital accounting
• Determine compensation for damages to the marine environment
MACBIO provides technical support to partner countries in identifying and highlighting the hidden values of marine and coastal resources and their ecosystem services. The project has undertaken, national-level ecosystem valuation studies in the countries, resulting in five country reports, a regional report and technical report. These products, and their resulting data, will be available in various formats for local and national decision-makers, to support medium and long term planning.