Ocean Action Hub

9 Nov 2018  - New findings released offer a compelling business case for investing in the protection of the world’s coral reefs, with economic benefits stretching into the tens of billions in just over a decade.

  • Investing in coral reefs to prevent their current rate of decline could net $37b for Indonesia, $35b for Mesoamerican Reef by 2030, case studies show
  • Without urgent intervention, the world is on track to lose up to 90 per cent of its coral reefs within the next 30 years
  • Private sector investment is urgently needed to close the funding gaps in one of the world’s vital ecosystems

Focussing on two of the world’s major coral reef areas, the Coral Triangle and the Mesoamerican Reef, the study, The Coral Reef Economy, compared the estimated economic outcomes of two scenarios from now until 2030: one a Healthy Reef Scenario, where reefs are returned to a healthy state through increased investment in protection and preservation; and two, a Degraded Reef Scenario, where the health of the reefs continues to decline from current levels.

The contrast is stark: a shift to improved coral reef health from one of further decline in the period to 2030 could unlock an additional $37 billion ($2.6 billion per annum) in Indonesia and an additional $35 billion ($2.5 billion per annum) in Mesoamerica in three key reef-dependent sectors: tourism; commercial fisheries; and coastal development.

Jerker Tamelander, head of UN Environment’s coral reef unit, said: “Investing in coral reefs offers a significant prize, not only economic, but importantly also for the marine life, and coastal populations who depend so heavily on healthy coral reefs for their food, livelihoods and protection.”

Coral reefs are exceptionally valuable; they provide food, livelihoods and economic opportunity to more than half a billion people in over 100 countries, and coastal protection from increasing extreme weather events; they are also teeming with life, hosting a quarter of all known marine species.

Yet these vital ecosystems are being rapidly degraded as a result of warming sea temperatures due to climate change, overfishing, destructive fishing, ocean acidification, and a range of land-based activities. The world has already lost at least one-fifth of the world’s coral reefs, and is facing the very real threat of losing as much as 90 per cent of all its coral reefs within the next 30 years.

Tamelander added: “Climate change is a source of significant uncertainty - and risk. Realizing the full potential financial returns reefs can generate requires that urgent action is taken to limit climate change so as to avoid global scale reef loss.” 

The report’s findings show if coral reefs continue to decline in line with historical trends, the value of the reef to key sectors could fall in real terms by $3.1 billion in Mesoamerica and $2.2 billion in Indonesia per annum by 2030 compared to today. Such losses could have profound follow-on effects on local livelihoods and government taxation revenues in each region, further compounding the potential losses to reef-dependent communities.

CONTINUE READING ONLINE HERE: https://www.unenvironment.org/news-and-stories/press-release/billions-be-gained-coral-reef-investment-new-analysis-shows

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Publication date: 
Publication Organisation: 
UN Environment
Thematic Area: 
Marine ecosystems