Working paper on the economic valuation of country St. Maarten's coral reef resources

The St. Maarten Nature Foundation conducted an Economic Valuation of St. Maarten’s coral reef ecosystems in the fall of 2010. This attempted to put a monetary estimate on the coral reefs surrounding the island. Coral Reefs are one of the island’s most valuable resources; they provide a livelihood through dive tourism and fishery and provide protection from large, damaging waves caused by hurricanes. In order to properly manage the coral reef ecosystem, an economic valuation is a useful tool to determine what exactly the monetary value of a coral reef is. With an attached value, better management decisions can be made to adequately protect this most precious of resources.

In order to complete the study four questionnaires were distributed. Two dealt specifically with fisheries, one with hotel accommodations, and one with dive tourism. Data was also provided through independent research and stakeholder analysis. Coral reefs have direct and indirect influences on a wide range of economic factors, and the generation of data was crucial to the successful completion of this study. Data was inputted into a computer program created by the United Nations Environment Program and the World Resource Institute (WRI) and which was adjusted by the St. Maarten Nature Foundation to reflect St. Maarten’s unique ecological and economic situation.

The findings of this study have outlined that St. Maarten’s coral reef resources provide important goods and services to the economy of the island. The revenue that the resource is able to generate through coral reef associated tourism and fishery is approximately USD $57,586,976. Although this number is high, and highlights the importance of coral reefs to the island, it also suggests that there is an increased need for conservation in order for this value not to diminish. It is therefore in the best interest of St. Maarten to incorporate environmental economic data to: (1) Establish Marine Protected Area, (2) Incorporate economic valuation into EIAs, (3) Include economic impacts in assessing fines for damages to coral reefs from activities such as anchoring in the reserves, oil spills etc, (4) Weigh revenues from a growing tourism industry against long-term economic losses from environmental impacts, (5) Evaluate distributional effects (“winners” and “losers”) of proposed coastal development projects, (6) Invest in Scientific Research, (7) Increase support from the private and public sector in the proposed Marine Park Management Authority, St. Maarten Nature Foundation. 

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