Marine protected areas (MPAs) are essentially created for two reasons. One is to increase fish stocks and improve the economic performance of the fisheries sector. This is the case of the 11 marine reserves in the Balearics, from which two – Sa Dragonera and Llevant – are jointly managed with Madrid. The other purpose of MPAs is the conservation of biodiversity, habitats and species of high ecological value. This category includes national parks such as Cabrera; natural parks such as Ses Salines in Ibiza, s’Albufera des Grau in Menorca or Es Trenc in Mallorca; natural reserves and ‘Natura 2000’ sites designated under the EU Birds and Habitats directives. The good news is that these two objectives mutually reinforce each other. A marine reserve created with fishing objectives in mind benefits the conservation of habitats and species, and vice versa.
The other good news is that as well as these evident benefits, reserves offer other many goods and services. They generate value and opportunities for the development of economic activities such as diving, sailing and education in nature; they have become a tourist attraction that can generate direct and indirect benefits for commerce, hospitality and the local economy; and they’re also a source of enjoyment, leisure and wellbeing for both residents and tourists.
To maximise all of these benefits we need to invest. Management and research programmes are necessary for solid follow-up after designation, effective monitoring, good governance and, above all, appropriate financing. The solid network of marine protected areas in the Balearics has produced good results, but our research shows that its effectiveness still remains well below its potential. Expanding, strengthening and consolidating MPAs has to be a top priority within the strategy for economic recovery of the Balearics and Spain.