Climate change is threatening the Mesoamerican Reef and its surrounding coastal areas and because of this, Nature Conservancy and its partners obtain a special insurance policy for these endangered areas against hurricanes, storms, and other natural disasters.
This marks the first time a coral reef will be receiving its own insurance coverage, although providers have long encouraged governments around the world to make such an investment in their natural assets.
Global insurer Swiss Re, the policy provider, guarantees quick disbursement should a natural disaster occur, allowing immediate repairs such as reef elevation and reattachment of broken corals.
"If you cut any place of your body, and you have attention very quickly, you have more possibility for getting healthy," says María del Carmen García Rivas of the National Reef Park of Puerto Morelos which encompasses the endangered reef.
Private Investors To Pay For Coral Insurance
Instead of passing the bill for the policy to the state's taxpayers, it will be footed by hotel companies operating along the MAR's nearby coasts. After all, the tourism industry has been listed as one of the reef's major threats.
The money collected from these private entities combined with some government funds is going to the "Coastal Zone Management Trust," which was just announced by Nature Conservancy and Quintana Roo's state government on March 8.
Design and establishment of such trust fund took over one year, with assistance from the Innovative Finance Group under The Rockefeller Foundation.
Unfortunately, it will not cover the reef's entire 625-mile stretch. The money is only to be spent on the insurance and conservation of the portion located along the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico.
Mesoamerican Barrier Reef Protects Significant Tourist Destination
According to Nature Conservancy, MAR is the habitat of over 500 fish and 60 coral species, as well as various kinds of mollusks, mammals, and aquatic plants. It serves as a refuge for endangered marine animals, including green sea turtles and saltwater crocodiles.
Additionally, being the Western Hemisphere's longest barrier reef, it protects the coast of Quintana Roo, which is one of Mexico's largest and most popular tourist destinations. Millions of tourists are visiting it annually, generating an estimated $9 billion each year.
The environmental organization notes that when healthy, a barrier reef can reduce the amount of wave energy during storms by up to 97%. If it loses even just a single meter of its height, it will cause twice the damage to coastline structures.
"The Mesoamerican Reef plays a critical role in protecting residents, tourists, and businesses from storm surge and sea-level rise. This announcement is a win-win-win: for conservation, for the community, and for Mexico's economy," says Nature Conservancy president and chief executive Mark Tercek.
The organization and its partners, including tourism industry associations and local institutions, are still raising funds for the Coastal Zone Management Trust and by extension, the reef's insurance. Swiss Re prefers immediate payment but it also believes that the unique funding approach for MAR will also work and can be implemented in other countries.