CORAL Weighs In on the Economic Value of Coral Reefs at the 16th Katoomba Meeting
Funding for conservation is a tricky issue. Grants are competitive, and will only fund a project for a certain amount of time. Governments have many competing priorities and are often strapped for cash. Member-supported non-profits can have very limited resources. So, how can long-term conservation initiatives become economically sustainable? One potential strategy is being pursued by the Katoomba Group.
Tourism businesses, like this one
Photo by Steve Turek
The Katoomba Group is an international network of individuals working to develop conservation funding strategies through economic markets and "payments for ecosystem services" (PES)—economic incentives for people to practice good environmental stewardship. The Katoomba Group sponsors meetings around the world where stakeholders can strategize and share ideas about ecosystem service transactions and markets. CORAL has recently become a member of the Katoomba Group through our Conservation Programs Director, Rick MacPherson.
CORAL was invited to participate in the Sixteenth Katoomba Meeting in Palo Alto, California, which was the first Katoomba meeting to focus exclusively on marine ecosystems. CORAL has been working on PES strategies through our development of user fee systems for marine parks, which provide an economic incentive for communities to continue conservation efforts. Tourists are generally willing to pay a fee to enjoy the marine life in a well-managed marine park, and the income generated from these fees brings benefits back to the community and funds continued conservation.
|Divers in the Namena Marine Reserve in Fiji receive a dive tag
like this one when they pay the reserve's user fee. CORAL has
helped the community to set up the user fee system and
manage the income it generates.
The user fee systems CORAL has helped to develop have been highly effective, but the income they generate is only a drop in the bucket compared to the money that could come from real market investment. There is increasing interest from the private sector in maintaining and investing in ecosystem services such as pharmaceuticals prospecting, and large investment firms could create "environmentally sustainable" portfolios for their clients.
Although we certainly acknowledge the risk of putting any kind of price tag on ecosystems—not to mention the gamble of tying conservation funding to the volatile fluctuations of the market—we also see the potential for PES and other market strategies to provide long-term financial support for conservation that goes beyond the short lifespan of grants and the limited resources of non-profits.
Rick MacPherson presented on a panel at the Katoomba Meeting to discuss the complicated dynamics of ecotourism and the potential for partnering with the tourism sector to fund conservation. Below, you can watch an informal interview with Rick after the panel, and listen to a podcast of the panel presentation. Podcasts of additional panel presentations from the meeting can be found here, and interviews with other conference participants can be found here.
Watch the interview with Rick:
Listen to the podcast of Rick's presentation:
Beyond Simply Ecotourism: Minimizing Risk and Enhancing Value
Thanks to the Katoomba Group for this audio recording.