High economic values placed on Coral Reefs in Tobago and St Lucia

Direct annual economic benefits of tourism and fisheries resulting from coral reefs amounts to US$94 million in St Lucia and US$44 million in Tobago. Those numbers amount to 11 percent and 15 percent of those Caribbean islandsí yearly gross-domestic product.

"The health of Tobagoís reefs is vital to the islandís tourism product," said Anthony Franklin, director of the Institute for Marine Affairs. "Tourists and local residents should benefit greatly in the future because of the advances these economic baseline findings could provide towards smart policies."

The findings were announced yesterday along with the release of the full study, by the World Resources Institute (WRI), the Buccoo Reef Trust (BRT), the Institute of Marine Affairs, the government of St Lucia, and many others.

"Hopefully, knowing the economic value of the reefs will help policymakers develop and manage these beautiful and beneficial coastal areas with caution and care," said Lauretta Burke, senior associate at WRI and lead author of the study, which puts dollar values on tourism, fisheries, and shoreline protection provided by reefs.

"Reef-valuation numbers arm government officials with powerful information they can use to make educated policy. They also provide the public and other interested parties with something they can use to push officials to make smart policies," added Dr Owen Day, director of the BRT.

In Tobago, more than half of tourists dive, snorkel, or take a glass-bottom boat to the Buccoo Reef. Reef-associated tourism in Tobago contributes an estimated US$43 million in direct expenditure, such as food, lodgings, and ocean-related recreation. Two estimates not captured within the Tobago economy were also determined. One, the annual value of local residentsí use of the reefs and coralline beaches is estimated between US$13 million and US$44 million.