Ecosystem services provided by tropical regions may provide global benefits, but the costs of conservation and maintenance of these services fall largely on local populations (Balmford and Whitten, 2003; Davidson, 2012). In order to balance the cost–benefit ratio among service buyers (who pay), beneficiaries (who benefit) and providers (who sell), payment programmes for ecosystem services or Payment for Environmental Services (PES) has received increased attention in the literature and in programmes of management and conservation (Farley and Constanza, 2010). Aquatic ecosystems (marine and freshwater) provide several ecosystem services, such as disturbance regulation, water regulation and supply, nutrient cycling, biological control, food production, cultural and recreational uses, among others (Constanza et al., 1997; Barbier, 2012). Fisheries are one of the ecosystem services that aquatic ecosystems provide directly to human populations (Holmlund and Hammer, 1999; Barbier et al., 2008), but the fisheries’ natural capital has been used for thousands of years, resulting in a long history of impacts on fish stocks and aquatic bio-diversity (Jackson et al., 2001; Pinnegar and Engelhard, 2008). It is estimated that between 60 per cent and 80 per cent of fish stocks are fully or over-exploited (varying according to the calculation method), but fisheries still provide about 25 per cent of the animal protein consumed worldwide (Gutiérrez et al., 2011; FAO, 2012; Kleisner et al., 2013), demanding urgent conservation and management programmes (Pauly et al., 2002).