This analysis includes a valuation of coral reef-associated fisheries, potential losses to tourism due to beach erosion, and examines the role of coral reefs in reducing coastal flooding during storms. In addition, we provide a literature review of 16 coral reef valuations conducted in Jamaica.

Key Findings

Coastal Capital: Jamaica shows that coral reefs provide real benefits to Jamaica’s economy. Many critically important and economically valuable ecosystem services that reefs provide could be lost—including reef-associated tourism, shoreline protection, and habitat for fisheries—resulting in losses of jobs, revenue, and increased erosion and property damage during storms.

Jamaica’s reefs are already threatened by overfishing and pollution, and are increasingly threatened by global changes—especially warming seas. Jamaica’s reefs can survive and recover, but this will require effective management and protection. It is in the long-term economic interest of Jamaica to:

  • Promote sustainable fishing
  • Manage coastal development wisely
  • Reduce watershed-based sedimentation and pollution

Executive Summary

Coral reefs provide a diverse array of goods and services to the people and economy of Jamaica. They help to build and protect Jamaica’s beautiful white sand beaches, which attract tourists from around the world. Reefs provide critical habitat for Jamaica’s artisanal and industrial fisheries, and they also protect Jamaica’s coastline—including coastal communities and tourist hotels—from the destructive force of tropical storms.

Unfortunately, these benefits have been frequently overlooked or underappreciated in coastal investment and policy decisions. As a result, overfishing, poorly planned coastal development, sedimentation, and pollution have combined to threaten Jamaica’s reefs. These local threats are compounded by the growing global threats from climate change, including warming seas and ocean acidification. This suite of threats, coupled with Jamaica’s high reliance on coral reefs, highlights the urgent need for improved coastal and fisheries management to reduce local pressures on reefs and preserve the benefits coral reefs provide to Jamaica.

Economic valuation—a tool which assigns a monetary value to the goods and services provided by ecosystems—gives policy makers important information to help set priorities and improve decision-making regarding natural resources. This summary first quantifies the relationship between coral reef degradation, beach erosion, and potential losses of tourism revenue in Jamaica. We then assess the economic contribution of coral reef-associated fisheries. Finally, we examine the role of coral reefs in reducing coastal flooding during storms.

Tourism, fisheries, and shoreline protection are just three of the many culturally and economically important services provided by reef ecosystems in Jamaica. Even without a complete economic valuation of other ecosystem services, the country’s coral reefs are clearly valuable. Investing in the maintenance and enhancement of these reef-related benefits—and preventing future losses—is thus an important investment in the health and sustainability of Jamaica’s economy.