Responses to questions posed by attendees at the second MERCES webinar on “Private Finance in Marine Ecosystem Restoration”

Nikki Hiorns 

Which countries have good examples of biodiversity offset markets?

RG: Germany would be a good example of a country with considerable experience with compensation pools, or habitat banks.

See for more information (there is more in the scientific literature, but ii may be behind a paywall).

WHC: A few examples can be found in the following links: 

Table 2.

A US case

DSMB. The MERCES Business Club case studies ( have some examples of where impacts by coastal development (e.g. port developments) can be offset by marine ecosystem restoration in an adjacent location with multiple benefits to the new location.  See, for instance, a large habitat restoration scheme at Steart Marshes, UK.  Advantages in the offset area can be flood defence, carbon capture in sediments, enhancing commercial fish stocks, wildlife conservation and stimulating tourism for local authorities. However, the offset area may take tens of years to attain similar biodiversity and ecosystem functioning characteristics as the area lost to development.

In addition, the International Association for Dredging Companies (IADC) has an interesting webinar by Dr Annelies Boerema of the Ecosystem Management Research Group (Ecobe), University of Antwerp, on “Ecosystem Services: Towards integrated marine infrastructure project assessment” in which the benefits of ecosystem restoration in relation to port expansion in Port Botany, Australia, and flood control in the Scheldt Estuary, Belgium are discussed, and which are of relevance to the inclusion of ecosystem services in offset markets .  

A similar case study is reported by HR Wallingford on the MERCES Business Club website detailing management options for port operators and the ecosystem benefits of sediment replacement around the Port of Felixstowe and Harwich Harbour.


Brenda Deden 

Does payment by 'perpetrators' mean that a disaster that brings damage to a natural resource is first needed, before you can get money for restoration? In other words, does nature first need to be destroyed before you can restore the ecosystem? How can this for instance be of help for coral/oyster bed restoration?

RG: Yes, in all examples I discussed that is the idea: the party causing the damage pays for the restoration.

WCH: When we talk restoration, we focus on the degraded ecosystem. When the ecosystem is at the risk of being degraded or destroyed, consideration of restoration or conservation and the cost will be important. Then the perpetrators will be the one imposing the risk or threat for the ecosystem. In the coral case, for example, it will be the fishing trawling industry. 

DSMB. In good environmental practice a contractor should address the Mitigation Hierarchy (Avoid, Minimise, Restore, Compensate) when submitting an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to a regulator in order to get an environmental and social licence to operate.  Ideally plans for restoration should be considered and included at the time a development project is agreed. For instance, on land, for mining, the closure plan usually includes how the site will be restored following the closure of the mine and who will pay for it. Similar approaches are required for the marine environment. The importance of valuing all ecosystem services at the outset of a project may influence the need for marine ecosystem restoration and compensation, as discussed in the first MERCES webinar.


Sara MacLennan 

You mention that the $4.8m is small compared to the financing required. Is there an assessment anywhere of the scale of the investment required for marine restoration or marine conservation? Either worldwide, or if there are regional or country estimates?

RG: I am not aware of estimates for marine conservation and restoration, but the above figure considers restoration and conservation in general and comes from the following report: The same report estimates the total funds needed for conservation at 300-400 bln USD.

WCH: A review paper on marine restoration costs can be found here:


Meri Bilan 

In the marine environment there is no/very little private ownership of "sea". It is divided by EEZ, territorial waters or areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ). How does private financing fit in with this and is marine restoration going to be financed mostly by governments (especially for ABNJ)?

RG: A lot of restoration is coastal rather than marine: seagrass beds, kelp forests, coralliginous habitats. That's probably easier to finance as it falls under one jurisdiction and is closer to beneficiaries.

WCH: Collaborations between various governments surely could support marine restoration and conservation in the open sea or areas beyond national jurisdiction. Private financing can also play an important role. For example, companies which make use of resources in the open sea may have incentives to finance the conservation and restoration if they view corporate responsibilities and social impact investment are important to their business, values and the reputation of the company.

DSMB In international waters the International Seabed Authority (ISA) is formulating new regulations for the exploitation of deep-sea minerals. Recognising that the ‘polluter should pay’ Draft Regulation 27 proposes that the contractor should lodge an environmental performance guarantee to include the decommissioning and final closure of Exploitation activities and  the post-closure monitoring and management of residual Environmental Effects. This could include measures to restore the marine environment following mining, but there has been very little research on what the restoration measures might be and they are likely to be very different for mining of polymetallic nodules on abyssal sediments, polymetallic sulphides on mid ocean ridges and cobalt-rich ferro-manganese crusts on seamounts.  

See for the draft exploitation regulations. They are available in many different languages on the ISA website.


Jürgen Zeitlberger 

Often, projects with a conservation or restoration angle are small and have high transaction costs. Are there successful case studies where those costs have been decreased (as for ex. successful bundling of a number of projects so that the investment size gets bigger while relative transaction costs are lower)?

RG: A recent study of restoration costs ( has looked into the possibility of such scale economies, but did not find any. Most of the projects considered, however, were quite small-scale so a scale effect might still be there but just not visible in their data.

WCH: Here you can find an early WWF report mapping worldwide cases on marine conservation financing mechanism.


Stephen Hynes 

They use agri environmental schemes to pay farmers for ES delivery; any room for something similar for fishers for such things as litter clean up, modified fishing techniques, etc.  Of course can easily argue goes against PPP principle perhaps but so do agri environmental schemes. Thoughts?

RG: There are some projects to stimulate fishermen to collect marine waste (see e.g., but I am not sure how much subsidy they get. As for stimulating more sustainable fishing techniques: governments do this but as you rightly indicate it violates the Polluter Pays Principle. Dutch examples of this are Vispluisvrij, a project to reduce or eliminate the use of polyethylene threads to protect bottom trawl gear; and the investments in pulse trawling (the ecological impact of which is disputed in the public debate but it has shown advances in fuel efficiency and selectivity). The problem with subsidizing such improvements is that it does, in a sense, stimulate fishing. Subsidizing mitigation of adverse impacts is usually not the most efficient way to go.


Luiza Neves 

Often public finance programs favour large research projects with large consortiums who can prove high impact, etc., but they have extensive application programmes, sometimes calls don’t apply to what you want to do either. What is your advice to SMEs wanting to act - and for example via seaweed cultivation to help restore ecosystems - what are other realistic options for funding e.g. in Norway?

WCH: Getting research fund is one option for SMEs who want to act for restoration and conservation. In Norway, regional research funds have calls particularly for industries. The private financing we discussed here also includes conservation funds directly from private industries and private benefactors. 


Karsten Schroeder 

Here in Philippines we look into conservation/ restoration of sea cucumber populations ...I'm thinking about similarities. The perpetrators are clear: the people who collect sea cucumbers in a more or less uncontrolled manner. Do you have any recommendations on how to address this issue?

RG: I'm not sure how this question is related to the kind of restoration activities in MERCES, but I suspect that in this case restoration will have to come from a reduction in fishing pressure. This can be very difficult in such fisheries where people depend on fishing for their livelihood. The Environmental Defense Fund has been active in developing instruments to make this possible. See


Anonymous Attendee 

I assume that the coastal areas in or close to population rich major cities are those where the prospects of finding an interest to finance marine restoration are the highest. Would it make big difference if the restored habitats were filmed live and displayed e.g. in public libraries or in shopping malls on TV screens?

WCH: Size of restoration fund depends on what kind of marine restoration you are looking at and where the payment comes from. The interest of funding restoration is not necessarily highest near the major cities.  If we aim at crowdfunding, improve access of information may increase conscious involvement and payment. 

DSMB: Local involvement in marine ecosystem restoration would certainly help, either through crowd funding or in bringing pressure on local authorities to act in the interests of the whole community, and paid for through local taxes.  For instance, in the Mediterranean marine ecosystem restoration could lead to increased interest from sports diving enthusiasts and therefore stimulating the local economy.  For instance, the case study on “The importance of restoration actions in coastal marine habitats - Coralligenous habitats” on the MERCES Business Club web pages notes that coralligenous habitats across the Apulia region (Adriatic and Ionian Seas, Italy) in the Mediterranean Sea generate an economic contribution of 4.7 M euro/year to the region.


Meri Bilan 

Is there a priority list of which ecosystems should be restored first on national levels or maybe on EU level?  Would that change financing opportunities - maybe by targeting specific industries to finance restoration?

DSMB – The MERCES project has been mapping areas around the European margin which have been degraded.  The data can be used to decide on ecosystem restoration priorities taking into account environmental benefits, increasing the value of ecosystem services, costs and ease of introducing restoration measures.  See MERCES Work Package 1 (WP1) “European Marine habitats, degradation and restoration” and the outputs.



Bassirou DIARRA 

Senegal has discovered Oil and Gas offshore; this has led to big issues for fisheries sector. How can we improve knowledge of deep sea bed biodiversity?

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WCH: It is very important that national /local government should use policy measures to protect interest of local fisherman and assure the livelihood of local communities. And to transfer the income from the oil industry to local communities and for ecosystem recovery. 

DSMB. It is important to protect the livelihoods of local fishermen, but impacts from large-scale commercial fisheries need to be considered too. Commercial deep-sea bottom trawling for instance on the European margin has been shown to have a physical impact on seabed communities an order of magnitude greater than all other deep-water industries put together, including offshore oil and gas (Benn et al. 2010, Human Activities on the Deep Seafloor in the North East Atlantic: An Assessment of Spatial Extent. PLoS One 5(9): e12730. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0012730 – free to access).  



Which are the charities that support marine restoration projects in Europe?

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RG: I am not aware of such support in Europe. The charities I know, including Dutch ones such as the Turing Foundation, prefer to focus on restoration in the tropics, especially coral reefs and mangrove forests.


Bassirou DIARRA 

Norway has a good experience about Oil and Gas exploitation. How are marine ecosystem restoration activities dealt with in the Oil and Gas sector? Do companies have to pay for the restoration of ecosystems?

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WCH. : Norwegian law requires that the “polluter pays”.  The Oil and Gas industry in Norway has been involved actively in financing environmental impact assessment (EIA) and monitoring programs studying  the effects of their emissions on the environment along the offshore oil and gas fields in Norway.  The monitoring program for sediment has been carried out since the 1970s, and the monitoring program for water column has been carried out since the 1990s. Environmental monitoring of the seabed is made before the production starts in the field and is then carried out once every three years afterwards. Two seabed monitoring activities will be carried out after the field has stopped production; that is, twice during the six years after production stops. Monitoring reports cover each field. A joint report for each region will be produced. When the oil field approaches closure, Norwegian Petroleum law §5.1 requires the industry to develop a closure plan for the field. An EIA has to be carried out for closing and decommissioning offshore infrastructures on the field. The plan will be considered by the relevant ministries, agencies, and other stakeholders before the plan is carried out. The final EIA report will also be subject to a public hearing. Experience from the disposal of facilities can be found from the Ekofiskfield, Friggfield and Ymefield fields, and from the investigations made for concrete infrastructures. These are evaluated by OSPAR-OIC in the so-called derogation process. 

Cleaning activities of the sea bottom include, for example, removing steal platforms and other devices and shipping them to approved facilities on land for resurgence and recycling. 

The industry is also actively involved in various research projects such as CORAMM (Coral Risk Assessment, Monitoring and Modelling) (e.g. ) and EU SponGES project (Deep-sea Sponge Grounds Ecosystems of the North Atlantic) ( ) as well as several Norwegian national projects. It also sponsors an annual Forum on offshore environmental monitoring where new monitoring results, techniques and methods will be presented. 

Emission status to air and the ocean can be found in the following reports (in Norwegian)

Results from environmental monitoring and can be found at ( in Norwegian)  

Monitoring results for bottom habitat for each oil field can be found at (in Norwegian)


DSMB. The MERCES Business Cub website has a case study from the North Sea relating to the decommissioning of offshore infrastructures (such as rigs and pipelines). Some of the structures are now possibly acting as artificial reefs and providing connectivity for some taxa across the region. Each rig will have to be considered on a case by case basis, but there may be good reasons for retaining some rigs and toppling them in situ. There may be a number of ecosystem benefits, including to fisheries. It is a hot topic currently.  The oil and gas industry companies are funding independent research through the INSITE North Sea (INfluence of man-made Structures  In The Ecosystem) programme (


Harm Kampen 

What is the total volume of unwanted urchins that need to be removed from Northern Norway, to have a positive impact on the ecosystem?

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WCH: There are about 80 billion individual sea urchins covering more than 5 000 km2in three northern counties in Norway (Nordland, Troms and Finnmark). As kelp forest will only come back when large populations of sea urchins have been wiped out, destructive harvesting will occur at the beginning and then sustainable harvesting after the kelp forest has started to come back. 


Stephen Hynes 

Why are the urchins out of control? What was and happened its previous predator?

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WCH: There are no scientific documents showing why urchins are out of control in the Northern Norway. Various fish species (such as coastal cod) and crabs ( e.g. cancer crab) prey on sea urchins. Coastal cod populations have been very low since 1980s. But the historical relation between these predators and urchin populations is not clear. Recent fieldwork carried by our institute does see cancer crabs moving northwards reducing urchin populations and helping kelp patches to re-establish in areas like Nordland and south Troms. 


Stephen Hynes 

Is harvesting sustainable long term or is it a short term strategy until kelp is restored?

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WCH: A realistic harvesting strategy is destructive harvesting at the beginning and then sustainable harvesting after kelp forest has been re-established. 


Karsten Schroeder 

Did I miss that...What led to the outbreak of the sea urchins?

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WCH: There are no scientific documents showing why urchins became out of control in the Northern of Norway.


Meri Bilan 

Regarding kelp case study - do you know why the urchins overcame the kelp forests in the north of Norway?

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WCH: There are no scientific documents showing why urchins became out of control in the Northern of Norway.


Juan Azofeifa-Solano 

Hello everyone. Thank you very much for this wonderful webinar. I am a master student from Costa Rica. Currently helping a Marine Protected Area in the Gulf if Nicoya, created by fishermen. They are trying to get funds to do coral restoration, using artificial coral reefs and coral gardening. Do you have any recommendations or examples in tropics that I can show to them?

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RG: You may want to check what happens in the Dutch Caribbean:

WCH: A regional funding and coordination institution, representatives from conservation funds in  the MAR region (Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico) initiated the Mesoamerican Reef Fund (MAR Fund).

DSMB. The MERCES Business Club web pages of case studies has several examples of coral restoration and replanting by EU companies which may be of interest. 


Charlie Endsor 

Do we know of any local/municipal governments around the world taking the initiative and giving relief - perhaps financial - to individuals/SMEs contributing to local restoration initiatives?

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RG: I am not aware of such initiatives.

WCH: Revolving loan fund for fishermen to carry out sustainable fishing in US.



How about Norway?

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WCH: I am not aware of such initiatives. 


Armelle JUNG 

Many thanks for the conference, Armelle

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