Billion-dollar marine ecosystems in the Bahamas

Cat Cay, The Bahamas. Image: Daniel Piraino.

According to a recent study, the value of the ecosystems services provided by marine protected areas in the Bahamas is more than 6 billion dollars:

An evaluation of the marine protected areas in The Bahamas puts the economic value of ecosystem services in the billions of dollars and helps to build the case for expanding the network of these spaces in the country.

The report “Economic Valuation of Ecosystem Services in Bahamian Marine Protected Areas” was commissioned by Bahamas Protected, a three-year initiative to manage and expand marine protected areas in the country that is in an effort to safeguard the economic value of marine ecosystems.

The more than 6 billion dollar value includes not only national benefits from these areas that provide nursery habitat for the spiny lobster fishery, protect shorelines from storm damage, and support tourism, but also benefits to the international community such as the carbon storage in these areas that mitigate the worldwide carbon footprint and protect against climate change impacts.

The report only calculated value of these specific services so the total value is likely to be higher. Traditional approaches to MPA management focus on ecological considerations, such as a sufficient diversity and proximity of habitats but this report goes further.

“The marine environment of The Bahamas is under increasing threat every day by human interventions that not only risk the collapse of some fishing industries but also put residents at risk because of the loss of storm protection and even the destruction of some touristic attractions,” said BREEF Executive Director Casuarina McKinney-Lambert. “If we can put a value on the environment our hope is that people become more willing to help protect the environment in our country.”

The main ecosystem services considered were valued as follows:

  • Nursery habitats to support lobster fisheries: $23.5 million in export value annually, 6 million lbs catch per yea
  • Vibrant tourism: $67.6 million in expenditures annually,  383,000 visitor days per year
  • Communities protected from coastal hazards: reduced exposure for 39,000 people and $806 million in annual income
  • Carbon storage for climate mitigation: $5 billion in avoided carbon emissions, 400 million tons of carbon dioxide in mangroves and seagrass

Visit the website of the Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation to read more about the report, as well as the report itself [pdf].


[Image: Daniel Piraino]

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