Cancun Pioneers Scheme to Insure Its Coral Reef
Fiona Harvey - The Guardian
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July 20, 2017

Tropical fish swim among the coral in the Caribbean sea, Yucatan, Mexico (Seaphotoart/Alamy)

A stretch of coral reef off the Mexican coast is the testing ground for a new idea that could protect fragile environments around the world: insurance.

The reef, off the coast of Cancun, is the first to be protected under an insurance scheme by which the premiums will be paid by local hotels and government, and money to pay for the repair of the reef will be released if a storm strikes.

Coral reefs offer a valuable buffer against storm damage from sea waves and high winds, but their condition has deteriorated in recent years, the result of human exploitation and destruction of the reefs, as well as climate change, plastic waste and the acidification of the oceans.

Under the Cancun insurance policy, pioneered by insurance company Swiss Re and The Nature Conservancy, a US environmental charity, local organisations dependent on tourism will pay in to a collective pot likely to amount to between $1m and $7.5m for the insurance premiums on the policy, and a 60km stretch of reef and connected beach will be monitored. If any destructive storms damage the reef system, the insurer will pay out sums likely to lie somewhere between $25m and $70m in any given year.

Any payouts will be used for restoration of the reef, for instance by building artificial structures that can increase the height of the reef in case of storm damage.

Corals from the reef can be removed and rested for a period of weeks or months, to help them regrow, at which point they can be safely reattached to their native habitat in order to regenerate the growth of the reef system. The advantages of such restoration go far beyond the hotels that border the seafront. As well as providing a natural brake against destructive storms, coral reefs provide nurseries for fish when they are growing, and form a vital part of the marine ecosystem. Their health or decline is seen as one of the key indicators of the state of the natural environment globally.

Read the rest at The Guardian

Related: The World's Vanishing Corals Reefs: "Rainforests of the Sea" (The Daily Galaxy)

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