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The economics of worldwide coral reef degradation  [2003]

H. Cesar L. Burke L. Pet-Soede

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Estimates in this report state that coral reefs provide each year nearly US$ 30 billion in net benefits in goods and services to world economies, including, tourism, fisheries and coastal protection. Yet, according to this report, coral reefs are under heavy pressure. Already, 27% is permanently lost and with current trends, a further 30% is at risk of being lost in the coming thirty years. With over 39% of the world population now living within 100 kilometres of the coast and many people in these areas depending on reefs, social and economic implications for poverty, food security and further biodiversity loss, are significant.The report outlines key causes of reef degradation, notably:migration to coastal areas and consequent clearing of coastal ecosystemsunregulated coastal construction in creasing sedimentationincreased untreated run-off of sewage and agricultural run offover fishing and destructive fishing practices, such as dynamite fishingincreases in sea surface temperature associated with global warming, causing increased bleaching eventsover use by tourism businesses (although the benefits of sustainable tourism are also acknowledged)The report goes on to estimate the costs of addressing these issues, and the economic benefits that could accrue as a result of successfully doing so. The authors conclude that, without even attempting to measure their intrinsic value, it is clear that coral reefs contribute enormously to food, income and various oth
er quantifiable benefits, if properly managed. Net potential benefits are estimated at US$ 30 billion per year. With current trends of reef degradation, revenues will decrease, in some cases by as much as 75% with increasing costs. This will imperil the lives of millions of people who rely on reefs for food and income, especially in developing countries. Good reef management is costly, but the losses will be much higher if we fail to take action now. [Adapted from authors]