Background: In March-April 2021, OCTO collaborated with the UN Environment Programme, the University of Queensland, The Nature Conservancy, WWF, and other partners to survey marine conservation and management practitioners about tools and learning resources they would recommend for the sustainable financing of marine protected areas (MPAs). Initial results were published in OCTO’s The Skimmer newsletter in June 2021. Readers recommended a number of additional resources. This updated compilation provides results from the initial survey, input from other MPA and finance practitioners, and a “roadmap” to help MPA professionals find resources appropriate to their needs.

PART A: Roadmap to MPA sustainable financing resources

Are you getting started developing a business plan and sustainable finance strategy for your MPA?

These guides are a good place to start:

If it would be helpful to look at other protected area business plans, check out this compilation:

If it would be helpful to watch webinars on developing a business plan and sustainable finance strategy for your MPA, some good webinars include the webinars associated with these resources:

If you need guidance for preparing an MPA business/finance plan in a language other than English, these guides are available in French and Spanish:

Are you ready to get started creating your MPA business plan/financial strategy?

Here’s a free tool you can use:

Do you want to learn more about a variety of MPA finance mechanisms and how they have been used in practice?

These guides and databases provide overviews of diverse MPA finance mechanisms and case studies:

If it would be helpful to watch webinars about MPA finance mechanisms, some good overview webinars of different mechanism include the webinars associated with these resources:

If you want to go deep into a specific MPA finance mechanisms, some in-depth resources include:

If you would prefer to flip through slides or need to teach others about MPA finance mechanisms, some training materials include:

Last but not least, some additional tools you may find helpful for developing sustainable financing for your MPA and MPA system:

PART B: Tools and guides for developing business plans and sustainable financing strategies for MPAs

Database of finance mechanisms: BIOFIN Catalogue of Finance Solutions
Provider: UNDP Biodiversity Finance Initiative
Description: This online catalog provides a comprehensive list of biodiversity finance instruments, tools, and strategies. Each catalog entry is a mechanism or “finance solution” and includes a brief description as well as links to guidance material or case studies.

Guide: Conservation Finance Guide (2002 with updates in 2019 and 2020)
Provider: Conservation Finance Alliance
Description: This guide and associated documents provide guidance on business planning for protected areas and how to implement specific finance mechanisms in seven different classes. Specific finance mechanism include: biodiversity enterprise funds, biodiversity prospecting, carbon offset projects, debt-for-nature swaps, environmental funds, fiscal instruments, payments for watershed services, philanthropic foundations, bilateral and multilateral donors, extraction of non-renewable resources, tourism entrance and activity fees, tourism concessions in protected areas, and international public climate finance for biodiversity.
For more information: Watch two webinars on the associated white paper Conservation Finance: A Framework, which provides several frameworks to understand concepts associated with conservation finance and a taxonomy of conservation finance strategies and mechanisms (Webinar 1 and Webinar 2).

Blueprint: Conservation Investment Blueprint: Public-Private Partnership for Marine Protected Areas (2019)
Provider: Blue finance
Description: The blueprint provides a replicable model for blended finance investments into public-private partnership investments for the management of MPAs.

Tool/Service: Eco2Fin (2015)
Provider: Wolfs Company
Description: The Eco2Fin tool (proprietary to, and used in conjunction with, Wolfs Company) is a framework that uses an ecosystem services approach to identify sustainable finance mechanisms within the context of a protected area.
For more information:

Guide: Finance Tools for Coral Reef Conservation: A Guide (2018)
Provider: Wildlife Conservation Society and Conservation Finance Alliance, in support of the 50 Reefs initiative
Description: Aimed at protected area managers and others charged with managing and financing reef conservation, this guide provides descriptions of 13 types of finance tools that have proven successful at, or have good potential for, supporting reef conservation and sustainable management.
For more information:

Guide: Financing mechanisms: A Guide for Mediterranean Marine Protected Areas (2021)
Provider: BlueSeeds for the Co-managed No-Take Zones/MPAs project
Description: A continuation of the 2015 Sustainable financing of Marine Protected Areas in the Mediterranean: A guide for MPA managers (available here), this new guide, designed for Mediterranean MPA managers, provides a step-by-step approach to help MPA managers accurately plan their financial strategy and implement relevant and effective financing mechanisms adapted to their needs. While written for Mediterranean MPA managers, the mechanisms presented in the guide are useful and replicable globally.
For more information:

Guide: Guía Rápida para Construir Planes de Financiamiento para Áreas Naturales Protegidas (2019)
Provider: Mexican National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP)
Description: The Spanish language guide is designed to help with the construction of finance plans to mobilize resources for natural protected areas. As part of this process, it seeks to generate alliances for ecosystem conservation with actors from the public and private sectors through the recognition of the benefits they provide.

Guide: Guide pour l’Elaboration des Plans d’Affaire Simplifiés pour les Aires Protégées (2012)
Provider: Benjamin Landreau (Lead author) for FIBA (Fondation Internationale du Banc d’Arguin; now MAVA), RAMPAO (Network of Marine Protected Areas of West Africa), FFEM (French Global Environment Fund), and AFD (French Development Agency)
Description: This French language guide provides MPA managers with a simple, step-by-step approach to independently develop a simple business plan. The guide is accompanied by simplified spreadsheets that managers can complete and update on a regular basis. It has a focus on African PAs but is applicable globally.

Guide: Innovations for Coral Finance (2017)
Provider: Vertigo Lab for the International Coral Reef Initiative
Description: Aimed at stakeholders involved in coral conservation, this guide introduces seven innovative financing mechanisms for the protection of coral reefs across the world. These mechanisms, both public and private-led, are complemented by a presentation of innovative business models that could be implemented to enhance coral reefs conservation finance.

Overview of finance mechanisms: Marine Protected Areas: Economics, Management and Effective Policy Mixes – Chapter 4: Sustainable Financing of Marine Protected Areas (2017)
Provider: OECD
Description: Book chapter that examines a range of financing instruments and approaches available for MPAs, ranging from traditional government budget and donor funding to user fees, taxes and fines, and payments for ecosystem services, among others.

Tool: MedPLAN (2015, updated 2020)
Provider: MedPAN, SPA/RAC, WWF (Owners); Vertigo Lab, BlueSeeds (Developers)
Description: This freely-available business plan tool developed by Vertigo Lab and updated by BlueSeeds helps MPA managers build their business plan and financial strategy. It is a series of Microsoft Excel spreadsheets containing formulas that allow MPA mangers to build a business plan by reporting the financial data of their MPA. The tool assesses total annual costs for implementing the MPA management plan, present and future financial resources for the MPA, and the financing gap between estimated costs and financial resources. While developed for Mediterranean MPA managers, the tool is applicable globally.
For more information:

  • Video tutorials for conducting this work are available on the MedPAN website.
  • The tool can be freely downloaded here or here.

Database of finance mechanisms, case studies, and literature: Ocean Finance Knowledge Portal
Provider: Marine Conservation Finance (Principal: Melissa Walsh)
Description: The knowledge portal includes a catalog of finance mechanisms most relevant to the Pacific Ocean context, examples of innovative ocean finance solutions that have been implemented at marine sites worldwide, and a database of ocean finance publications.

Guide: Planificación financiera a largo plazo para parques y áreas protegidas (2010)
Provider: The Nature Conservancy for the US Agency for International Development
Description: This Spanish language guide provides professional who are not experts in finance with a practical guide for preparing long-term financial plans for protected areas. The guide provides a review of financial planning and long-term management, an orientation scheme and suggested approach to using this model, detailed instructions to prepare financial projections for a protected area, summary information on three case studies of different complexity, and the basic steps for developing the main narrative components of a financial plan.

Guide: Practice Standards for Conservation Trust Funds (2020)
Provider: Conservation Finance Alliance
Description: This document provides voluntary practice standards for conservation trust funds and serves as a tool for improving the design, management, and monitoring and evaluation of conservation trust funds (CTFs).
For more information:

Database of protected area business plans: Protected Area Business Plan Resources (2017)
Provider: Government of Seychelles-UNDP-GEF Protected Area Finance
Description: The collection contains over 45 examples of protected area business plans and guidelines from around the world.
For more information:

Guide: Protecting Our Marine Treasures: Sustainable Finance Options for U.S. Marine Protected Areas (2017)
Provider: US Marine Protected Areas Federal Advisory Committee
Description: This report focuses on a wide range of approaches to obtain external funding for MPAs. It covers funding vehicles such as friends groups, foundations, fiscal sponsorships, and other non-profit organizations. In addition, it covers sources of external financing such as philanthropic giving, bonds, environmental mitigation activities, penalties and settlements, taxes, fees, corporate support, competitive grants, tourism-based support, and international partnerships.
For more information:

Guide: Sustainable Financing of Marine Protected Areas in the Mediterranean: A Guide for MPA Managers (2015)
Provider: MedPAN, RAC/SPA, WWF (Publishers); Vertigo Lab (Technical Partner)
Description: This guide, designed for Mediterranean MPA managers, provides readers with information for developing the financial strategy of their MPA and identifying successful financing mechanisms. A continuation of this guide Financing mechanisms: A Guide for Mediterranean Marine Protected Areas (available here) was published in 2021. While written for Mediterranean MPA managers, the mechanisms presented in the guide are useful and replicable globally.

Part C: Trainings for developing business plans and sustainable financing strategies for MPAs

Training materials: Business Planning for MPAs (2021)
Provider: MedPAN, Brijuni National Park, and BlueSeeds
Description: As part of the MedPAN network training program, an online training session was held with nine Mediterranean MPAs in January-February 2021. This training alternated between five pre-recorded videos and individual meetings with each MPA to work on their specific case study. With the exception of the first Mediterranean context webinar, the video content is applicable to MPAs globally, and an equivalent training program is currently being developed for MPAs in Western Africa.
For more information:

Training materials: Conservation Finance Training: Financing Sustainable Management of Marine and Coastal Biodiversity (2017)
Provider: Blue Solutions
Description: Materials from this training course provide an introduction to the value of marine ecosystem services and the need for conservation finance to support marine and coastal management; opportunities and approaches for financing conservation of marine and coastal areas; and key features in establishing a conservation finance mechanism.
For more information:

  • The live training will not be offered by Blue Solutions after 2021, but the training materials are freely available on the Blue Solutions website.

Webinar: Debt Conversions (2020)
Provider: Conservation Finance Alliance
Description: This webinar discusses debt conversions (also known as debt for climate and nature swaps), a finance instrument that allows countries to reduce their national debt and reallocate funds for sustainable development and conservation projects.
For more information:

Training Materials: Finance Tools for Coral Reef Conservation
Provider: Conservation Finance Alliance for the International Coral Reef Alliance
Description: Training slides covering the 13 finance mechanisms featured in the 2018 guide Finance Tools for Coral Reef Conservation: A Guide are available. Each deck includes a summary and detailed explanation of the main elements of the finance solution and one or two case studies. The training decks are intended to provide an introductory overview on finance mechanisms to protected area managers, government employees, conservation biologists, NGO staff, and others working in the field of biodiversity conservation. They do not assume any prior experience or background in economics or finance. The slides have been designed with the assumption that the person conducting the training sessions has a well-informed to expert level understanding of the content, and as such should be able to teach the material with no more than a few hours of preparation. Each section has added detail in the notes section of the slides to provide additional context, clarification, or examples.
For more information:

Training: Sustainable Financing for Marine Protected Areas
Provider: Coral Triangle Center
Description: This four-day course is an introduction to the concepts of sustainable financing and the range of tools and mechanisms available to support the long-term financing of MPAs.

Part D: Other relevant MPA finance tools

Tool: BlueMooring.org
Provider: BlueSeeds
Description: BlueMooring.org is a free platform to help global MPA managers manage their moorings and get sustainable revenues from them. The platform couples to an app that allows boaters to book and pay for anchorages while learning about the MPA. A call for pilot and partner MPAs to adapt BlueMooring.org’s functionality was released in May 2021.

Assessment Tool: Financial Sustainability Scorecard: for National Systems of Protected Areas (2007)
Provider: UN Development Programme
Description: This scorecard helps governments, donors, and NGOs investigate and record the structural foundations and accounts of their protected area financing system to assess its current health and status and long-term trends. The scorecard is designed for national systems of protected areas but can be used by state, regional, and municipal systems and MPA networks.

Database of funders: Ocean Funders Database
Provider: The Commonwealth Secretariat
Description: This online database provides searchable information on more than US$170 million of international funding for ocean-related projects, including MPAs. Access to detailed information is limited to Blue Charter Action Group members and Partners, but basic information is publicly available. As of July 2021, there were 115 entries in the database.

Tool: Reef Support
Provider: Reef Support
Description: Reef Support is a simple, customizable, fee-based tool to help MPA managers collect and sell marine park fees to visitors. It offers a safe way to receive money and provides access to a database of park visitors, a ticketing system, and the possibility to generate customizable financial reports.
For more information:

Project partners would like to thank respondents to our March-April 2021 survey and MPA/finance experts Guillaume Le Port of BlueSeeds, John Bohorquez of Stony Brook University, Sue Wells, Pierre Vignes of MedPAN, Amilcar Guzman of Wolfs Company, Jan Kleine Buening of GIZ, Alan White of the USAID SEA Project of Tetra Tech Indonesia, Lauren Wenzel of NOAA, David Meyers of the Conservation Finance Alliance, Jeff Ardron of the Commonwealth Secretariat, Frances Staub of the International Coral Reef Initiative, Nicholas Pascal of Blue finance, and Emma Doyle of the Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute.