Chumbe Island Coral Park
The potential of privately managed MPAs

Chumbe Island Coral Park
Established in
0.75 km²
Privately managed protected area
40 workers (full time) + approx. 30 supported outsourced businesses
Budget level
  • 1991
    Baseline surveys, outreach and community consultations
    Investment proposal developed and approved through extensive negotiations with the government
    Chumbe Island Coral Park Ltd (CHICOP) company established
    Chumbe declared as an MPA; 33-year land lease and MPA management contracts agreed between government and CHICOP
  • 1995
    MPA Advisory Committee established 
    MPA registered with UNEP-WCMC
    First 10-year management plan produced including finance and business plan for Ecolodge (1995-2005)
  • 1996
    Seven eco-bungalows and a visitors centre with a classroom constructed
    Chumbe Environmental Education Programme for schoolchildren launched
  • 1998
    Chumbe Island Ecolodge opened and business operations begun 
    Financial support from founder ceased and Chumbe began to rely on self-financing
  • 1999
    Chumbe became a multi award-winning MPA recognized for best-practice effective management
    Ten-year management plans updated (2006-2016, and 2017-2027)
    20 years of being entirely self-financing
  • 2020
    COVID-19 pandemic. Occupancy rates reduced from ~66% in recent years down to ~12% in 2020. Revenue dramatically reduced
    CHICOP unable to cover core MPA costs for the first time in 22 years
    Grant support received from DeveloPPP partnership with BMZ/GIZ to provide interim support
  • 2021
    Interim grant support received from BIOPAMA (specifically for the MPA rangers)
    Occupancy rates increased slightly (up to 25% in first half of the year)
  • Privately managed MPAs, situated in areas of high tourism value, with appropriate public-private partnership agreements in place, can deliver highly effective MPA management for both biodiversity conservation and sustainable local food security and livelihoods.
  • By utilizing business principles and generating revenue through sustainable ecotourism, a privately managed MPA can be largely self-financing, reducing pressure on limited government resources, decreasing a site's dependency on state funding and short-term donor funds, and actively contributing revenue to government through taxes and associated fees. 
  • Privately managed MPAs can provide long-term income and employment opportunities for local communities, building skills, supporting markets for local produce and empowering stewardship over marine resources.
  • While examples such as Chumbe have shown it is possible to have effective private sector management, replicating this approach globally has encountered challenges.
  • Short-term tenure or project-cycle-based management agreements severely disincentivize social entrepreneurs and investors who need long-term security of tenure to be operational; appropriate enabling conditions are required to ensure long-term security and encourage social investment.
  • Laws, policies and regulations enabling private sector management of MPAs differ greatly across nations. More effort is needed to overcome legal and political barriers to private sector management.
  • State and NGO actors have a limited understanding of social and environmental entrepreneurism, not-for-profit business frameworks and triple-bottom-line economics. Greater collaboration is required to build understanding and trust for private entities with clear conservation motives and operational credentials.
  • Private sector actors are rarely seen as potential MPA co-managers. Government should help engage the private sector, by recognizing their potential as public-private partners, ensuring systems are in place to appropriately assess the credentials of private sector operators, and facilitating long-term security for effective management.
  • Privately managed MPAs can be effective in managing biodiversity conservation, and supporting education, social development, local livelihoods and food security. They are able to generate financing, can be cost-effective, and offer long-term management security to an MPA. 
  • IUCN has recognized the potential of privately managed protected areas by calling on member states to promote and support them. While an increasing number of privately managed protected areas have been established on land in recent decades, in the marine realm very few exist. This is in large part due to the lack of tenure or lease options related to the marine environment, as well as a reticence from government and NGO communities to engage with the private sector as partners.
  • As we make efforts to meet the 30x30 target for MPAs, it will be vital to embrace wider governance frameworks, involve all stakeholders and optimize all opportunities for effective marine and coastal management. An enormous opportunity exists to advance privately managed MPAs as an important part of this effort. But this opportunity is as yet largely untapped. All parties – private sector, government, NGOs and communities – need to further improve collaboration to work together for the common goals of a sustainable future.
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