Marine reserves are an effective tool for protecting biodiversity locally, with potential economic benefits including enhancement of local fisheries, increased tourism, and maintenance of ecosystem services. However, fishing communities often fear short-term income losses associated with closures, and thus may oppose marine reserves. Here we review empirical data and develop bioeconomic models to show that the value of marine reserves (enhanced adjacent fishing + tourism) may often exceed the pre-reserve value, and that economic benefits can offset the costs in as little as five years. These results suggest the need for a new business model for creating and managing reserves, which could pay for themselves and turn a profit for stakeholder groups. Our model could be expanded to include ecosystem services and other benefits, and it provides a general framework to estimate costs and benefits of reserves and to develop such business models.