In­sur­ing co­ral reefs

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Ecowatch -

CAN co­ral reefs be in­sured? Can the ecosystem ser­vices and ben­e­fits pro­vided by them be val­ued in mone­tary terms?

An in­spir­ing new project an­swers: YES.

In what is be­lieved to be a glob­ally pi­o­neer­ing project, a stretch of corals off the tourist town of Cancún, Mex­ico will be pro­tected un­der an in­sur­ance scheme and the pre­mi­ums will be paid by lo­cal ho­tels and the Mex­i­can gov­ern­ment, re­ports The Guardian .Ifthe reef is dam­aged, then the pay­out will be used to re­pair the reef.

Reefs are ob­vi­ously im­por­tant, not only for the en­vi­ron­ment and fish­er­men, but for tourism. They are the “nurs­ery” where ju­ve­nile fish can shel­ter in, amongst the many nooks and cran­nies, un­til they grow up (think of the movie Find­ing Nemo).

The adult fish then be­come sources of in­come for fish­er­men and also sights for tourists who pay good money to come all the way to Cancún to go snorkelling or scuba div­ing. Co­ral reefs also pro­tect beaches from storms and big waves.

But, de­spite their im­por­tant eco­log­i­cal roles, corals have too of­ten been ne­glected – over­ex­ploited by hu­mans or choked by plas­tic rub­bish. In the big­ger pic­ture of cli­mate change, reefs are also en­dan­gered by global warm­ing (which leads to co­ral bleach­ing) and ocean acid­i­fi­ca­tion.

Un­der the Cancún in­sur­ance pol­icy, pi­o­neered by the in­sur­ance com­pany Swiss Re and the Na­ture Con­ser­vancy, a US en­vi­ron­men­tal char­ity, lo­cal or­gan­i­sa­tions de­pen­dent on tourism will pay in to a col­lec­tive pot for the in­sur­ance pre­mi­ums on the pol­icy, and a 60km stretch of reef and con­nected beach will be pro­tected.

Any pay­outs will be used to re­store the reef, for ex­am­ple, by build­ing struc­tures that can in­crease the height of the reef to re­duce storm dam­age, con­tin­ues the re­port.

Corals from the reef can also be re­moved and “rested” for weeks or months, to help them re­grow, and then reat­tached to their na­tive habi­tat later.

This pi­lot scheme could pro­vide a model for sim­i­lar projects in the fu­ture, link­ing eco pro­tec­tion and preser­va­tion to pay­outs in case of dam­age or dis­as­ter.

—AP

Can co­ral reefs be in­sured for their valu­able eco ser­vices, in­clud­ing tourism?

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