There are more than 200 marine protected areas (MPAs) in the Caribbean and Central America that contain coral reefs and are therefore theoretically attractive to scuba divers. One fifth of dive operators in 30 countries were surveyed for their use of MPAs: the majority are located within 20 km of at least one MPA and 46% conduct at least 80% of their diving within a MPA. An estimated 15 million dives take place outside of Florida each year, half of these occurring inside MPAs. Only 25% of MPAs containing coral reefs charge divers an entry or user fee, which is most usually USD 2–3 levied per dive or per diver. The revenue generated by these fees is estimated at USD 1–2 million annually, but the potential for generating income has not been fully realized. A significant contribution to the cost of regional conservation could be achieved if higher fees were applied more widely than at present.
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Vol. 32 • No. 2