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