Coral reefs and mangroves: A coastal country’s best friends
One of the nice things about dating someone in the same field is when I start talking about the importance of coral reefs and mangroves in Belize I not only get a patient listener, but someone who actually says, “I brought this working paper on coral reef valuation from the office that might help you.”
My fellow MIIS colleague and main squeeze Sam recently started his summer internship at World Resources Institute in Washington, DC.
So, here are some cool factoids:
-Several of Belize’s major commercial species rely on mangroves during some portion of their life. Mangroves also filter sediment and pollutants from coastal runoff, supporting the clean water favored by corals.
-Coral reef-and mangrove-associated tourism contributed an estimated US$150 million to $196 million to the national economy in 2007.
-Annual economic benefits from reef and mangrove-dependent fisheries is estimated at between US$14-16 million.
-Reefs and mangroves protect coastal properties from erosion and wave-inducing damage, providing an estimated US$231 to US$347 million in avoided damages per year.
These numbers are especially notable since Belize’s GDP in 2007 was US$1.3 billion.
It makes economic sense for Belize to protect its reefs and mangroves. The country’s MPAs system, consisting of 18 protected areas, is widely hailed as an example of forward thinking in marine conservation. But, enforcement has been challenging. Sure, it makes economic sense on the national level and international level, but what’s the incentive for local fishermen and business owners to comply with the restrictions?
In the end, it comes down to people, to individuals deciding whether to take an action or not. All the science and research in the world is not enough to change behavior. This is where I’m hoping my last 3 weeks in DPMI on facilitation techniques and designing projects with a participatory approach will come in handy. I guess I’ll find out soon!