COASTAL CAPITAL: Tobago
The Economic Contribution of Tobago's Coral Reefs
Coral reefs are integral to the economy of Tobago-they are a magnet for tourism and
recreation, provide food and livelihood to Tobago's residents through coastal fisheries, and
shelter its shorelines from ravaging storms. Tobago's reefs are beautiful and highly diverse,
and possess yet unknown bio-pharmaceutical values. The economic values that coral reefs
support are often overlooked or underappreciated in coastal development, management and
policy evaluations, resulting in decisions that do not maximize the long-term economic
potential of coastal areas.
This summary for Tobago is based on the report,
Coastal Capital Economic Valuation of Coral Reefs in Tobago and St. Lucia,
World Resources Institute (WRI) 2008
By: Lauretta Burke, Suzie Greenhalgh, Daniel Prager, and Emily Cooper
Available online at www.buccooreef.org and
research education conservation
N S T1 T Of
The World Resources Institute (WRI) led an Annual Economic Contribution of Coral Reefs in Tobago
economic valuation of Tobago's coral reefs, in 140
collaboration with many partners in Trinidad
and Tobago (see credits at back). The study
evaluated the overall annual economic 100
contribution of coral reef-associated tourism 80 High estimate
and recreation, fisheries, and shoreline % 60 H Lowestimate
protection services. Coral reef-associated 40
tourism and recreation is estimated to 20
contribute between US$100 and $130 million 0
to the national economy in 2006. Coral reef- Tourism and Fisheries Shoreline
associated fisheries are an important
cultural tradition, safety net, and livelihood, with annual economic benefits estimated at
between US$0.8 1.3 million. Coral reefs also provide shoreline protection services in
reduced erosion and wave damage valued between US$18 and $33 million per year. These
economic contributions are significant compared to Tobago's GDP, which was $286 million
in 2006. Coral reefs provide other important values not estimated in this study, and these numbers
should be regarded as a lower bound estimate.
Policies to Manage Coral Reefs
In Tobago, coral reef-associated tourism and recreation and shoreline protection services in
particular make a significant contribution to the island's economy when compared to GDP. An
awareness of these values is critical to making informed policy, investment, and development
decisions. In southwest Tobago, for example, discharge of untreated sewage and runoff of
pollutants from the land degrade water quality and threaten the Buccoo Reef. Decisions on land
use-for example, the type and location of development, the need for sediment controls along
Tobago' coral Reek streams, or decisions on sewage treatment-can all
have significant effects on coastal water quality and
a coral reef health. Managing the pressures from
Coal R 3 fisheries and tourism is also a delicate process with
Co, important consequences for reef condition. At the
S; " heart of many of these management concerns is the
need to assess trade-offs. For example, investing in
better enforcement, capping tourist numbers, or
.. limiting coastal development all have economic
consequences for individuals and for the economy.
However, the potential of longer-term revenue
S'.... \ streams and societal benefits from the goods and
services provided by healthier reefs are often not
included in these management discussions.
In many areas, coastal and marine management policies and regulations exist to limit pressure on
coastal ecosystems, including coral reefs. However, these regulations are often not enforced-even
in Marine Protected Areas-often due to a lack of resources for enforcement, such as staff, boats,
and fuel. For example, the enabling legislation of the Buccoo Reef Marine Park (BRMP) establishes
the park as a no-fishing area, but this regulation is not enforced-and today, the Buccoo Reef is
threatened by overfishing. This economic valuation suggests that the increased cost of enforcing this
regulation would be small compared to the long-term benefits of increased tourism.
Coastal Capital Tobago
Tourism and Recreation
Tourism is Tobago's largest economic sector, contributing about 46% of GDP and employing about
60% of the workforce in 2005, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council. Coral reefs are
an important attraction for tourists visiting Tobago, with over half of all international tourists
visiting the Buccoo Reef and many engaging
..... in diving and snorkeling on many of the
island's reefs. Visiting white sand beaches of
coralline origin is also popular with both
visitors to the island and local residents.
Decisions on how to manage coastal tourism
', 'development and visitation pressure on reefs
Shave important implications for coral reef
S6- health, and therefore for the future
attractiveness of Tobago as a destination.
Our valuation focuses on tourists visiting at least in part due to coral reefs-estimated
conservatively at 40% of all visitors to Tobago. In 2006, spending by these tourists on
accommodation, reef recreation, and miscellaneous expenses is estimated at US$ 43.5 million, which
comprises about 15% of Tobago's GDP. Additional indirect economic impacts, including materials
and services to support tourism (such as boats, towels and beverages) contribute another US$ 58 -
86 million to the national economy of Trinidad and Tobago. Combined, these result in a total
economic contribution of between US$ 101 and 130 million in 2006 from coral reef-associated
tourism. The study also estimated "local use", an important value not captured within the economy.
The University of the West Indies conducted a survey of local residents' use of the reefs and
coralline beaches and estimates this value to be between US$ 13 and 44 million per year in Tobago.
The economic valuation of fisheries focused on
species associated with coral reefs for at least a
portion of their lives, including snappers, groupers,
parrotfish, squirrelfish, lobsters and sea urchins.
Available data suggest that fishing of coral reef-
associated species in Tobago is near its sustainable
limit. Fishing above this limit would result in
diminished potential for future catch.
For Tobago, the annual direct economic
contribution of coral reef associated fisheries is
estimated at US$ 0.7 1.1 million. Additional indirect impacts from the need for boats, fuel, nets,
etc. is estimated at about US$ 0.1 0.2 million, resulting in a total economic impact of about US$
0.8 1.1 million per year in Tobago. Coral reef-associated fisheries have a small economic impact
compared to tourism, but provide other important values including jobs, cultural value, and a social
Coastal Capital Tobago
Valuable tourist resorts and residential developments dot Tobago's shoreline. Coral reefs play a vital
role protecting this shoreline from both routine waves as well as the harsher conditions associated
with storms. About 50 percent of Tobago's shoreline is protected by coral reefs. (Reef protected
shoreline is shown as magenta and purple lines in the map below). About six percent of land in
Tobago was identified as vulnerable
Vulnerable Land and Shoreline Protection by Coral Reefs In Tobago was identified as vulnerable
to erosion and damage from waves
Shoreline protection by roofs t
Vwthin 100 m oftrtngyg reef (shown as turquoise shading in the
Not protected by reef -" map). Much high value
Lana polenhally vulnerable to erosion i storm damage s
vu.nrabl ~ \, t development is in low-lying areas in
I coral Reefs southwest Tobago, where the
Coastline is protected by the Buccoo
S,.. Reef and other fringing reefs.
Vulnerable lands ae under Sm elevation
S ,,t, and within 1 km of the coast
Developed at WRI, December 2007.
The relative share of protection provided by coral reefs varies greatly with coastal context-the
elevation and slope of the shore, the geologic origin of the area (and resistance to erosion), and the
wave energy along the coast. This project developed and applied a new, innovative method for
evaluating the role of reefs in shoreline protection. In all areas where corals are present in Tobago,
they are estimated to provide at least 20 percent of the shoreline stability, while in some areas, this
share is over 40 percent. (Coastline
Shoreline Protection by Coral Reefs Relative Reef Contribution segments where coral reefs provide
the greatest share of protection are
Percent Reef ConritiontoCoasaleProecaion shown as dark blue lines in the map
not protected by reef
'23-27 below). Using an "avoided
Sor" Reefs damages" approach, the annual
value of shoreline protection
services provided by coral reefs is
estimated to be between US$ 18 and
33 million for Tobago in 2007. The
importance of coral reefs in
A:" protecting the shoreline will increase
aon; art ^a,.;..'.;" ~*I...I. with the rising sea level and
~" o' "o ...... increased storm intensity associated
with climate change and warming
Coastal Capital Tobago
Possible Futures for Buccoo Reef Marine Park
The Buccoo Reef is an important focal point for marine-based tourism. Surveys have shown that more than 60
percent of all visitors to Tobago visit the reef on glass-bottom boat and snorkeling trips. The Buccoo Reef encloses
the Bon Accord lagoon. Sewage discharge and nutrient and sediment runoff into the lagoon are major problems,
resulting in the poor condition of the inner reef, while the outer reef is relatively healthy. The Buccoo Reef Marine
Park (BRMP) was established in 1973 as a no-fishing area, with authorization for entrance fees. However, at present,
the no-fishing restrictions are not enforced, and fees have never been instituted.
Our project explored several management options for BRMP which would promote increased reef health, and thereby
support sustainable tourism and recreation:
* Enforcement of the no-fishing Area established for BRMP. This would lead to higher levels of fish and conch
inside the reserve, larger fish and more appeal for snorkeling and diving. As has generally been seen in other
Caribbean islands with well-managed no-fishing areas, this can lead to increased tourism revenue. Enforcement
would likely have benefits to fisheries outside of the reserve
* Re-routing of a drain currently coming into Bon Accord
Lagoon. The Bon Accord Integrated Development Drain
currently discharges both sewage and fish processing waste
into the lagoon in an area between Buccoo village and Pigeon
Point. This drain could be diverted into a wetland area, the
Pigeon Point Ponds. The effluent could then be filtered by the
wetlands, before discharging into more open water.
* Integrated watershed management. Nutrient and sediment
delivery to the Buccoo Reef area and Bon Accord Lagoon
could be reduced through the installation of sediment traps,
and by routing sewage discharge and nutrient-laden runoff
through wetlands. The GEF-funded Integrating Watershed and
Coastal Area Management in Small Island Developing States
of the Caribbean (IWCAM) project is currently focused on such
management issues in this area.
* Sewage Treatment. Communities near Bon Accord Lagoon
lack adequate sewage treatment, though the Water and Sewage Authority has plans to develop a sewage
treatment plant in the area within the next few years. In the meantime, additional development is proceeding,
and there is the potential that the new developments might incorporate sewage treatment sooner.
With political commitment, the first three management options described above could be implemented at relatively
moderate cost within the year or two. Enforcement of the no-fishing regulations at BRMP would require hiring a park
manager and investment in boats and fuel. These modest costs could be financed through the implementation of a
visitor fee to the park. Re-routing of the drain in Bon Accord would require only moderate engineering, with likely
benefits significantly outweighing costs.
Development of sewage treatment infrastructure for the area will take more time and represents a much larger
investment. Although improved sewage treatment is essential for the long-term health of the Buccoo Reef, adding a
park manager, rerouting the drain, and making improvements in watershed management would begin to improve
the health of the reef.
Costs of Losing Buccoo Reef. Because the reef protects a large, low-lying and developed section of Tobago, its
shoreline protection value is very high. "Damages avoided" due to the presence of the Buccoo Reef are estimated at
between US$140 and 250 million over a 25-year time period. In addition, the economic contribution of current
tourism and recreation associated with the Buccoo Reef is estimated to be between US$7.2 and $8.8 million a year
(in 2006), which equates to about US$128 to $156 million in net present benefits over a 25-year time period. The
economic contribution of glass bottom boat and snorkel tours, alone, are approximately US$1.4 million per year.
Therefore, the economic benefits of just the shoreline protection and tourism services of the reef over a 25-year
period are likely to be over $250 million. Cost estimates of interventions such as re-routing the drain in Bon Accord or
increasing enforcement of regulations in BRMP are not currently available, but should be significantly smaller in
comparison. The Soufriere Marine Management Area in St. Lucia, for example, which is similar in size to BRMP, has
total operating costs of under US$150,000 per year.
Coastal Capital: Tobago
Recommendations for Tobago
* Improve coastal water quality through sewage treatment and integrated watershed management.
Good coastal water quality is a benefit to both people and reefs.
* Maintain coastal mangroves, as these filter pollutants and help protect the shoreline from waves
and storm surges.
* Establish an entrance fee to BRMP and use revenue to hire a park manager, maintain boats, and
enforce the no-fishing regulations.
* Track number of snorkelers and divers and manage reef recreation within sustainable limits.
* Improve mapping of coral reefs and mangroves for Tobago. Monitor reef condition to have
timely information on degradation or improvement
* Improve fishing survey design, data collection and information
management at the Tobago House of Assembly, to allow
tracking of fishing effort and catch over time.
* Use the coral reef valuation methodology and Tool available
from www.wri.org/project/valuation-caribbean-reefs to track
the economic contribution of coral reefs over time-for
Tobago or for smaller areas such as the Buccoo Reef.
Economic Valuation of Coral Reefs in the Caribbean
The full report, Coastal Capital Economic Valuation of Coral Reefs In Tobago and St. Lucia, is
available online. Also, a full description of the economic valuation methodology developed under
this project, along with an Excel-based "Coral Reef Valuation Tool" guiding users through the
implementation of the methodology is available at www.wri.org/proiect/valuation-caribbean-reefs.
This project was generously funded by the MacArthur Foundation, United Nations Environment
Program Caribbean Environment Program, the Ocean Foundation, the Henry Foundation, the
Curtis and Edith Munson Foundation, the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, SwedBio, the
International Coral Reef Action Network (ICRAN) and the Buccoo Reef Trust.
The analysis was led by the World Resources Institute (WRI), in collaboration the Buccoo Reef Trust
(BRT), Institute of Marine Affairs (IMA), Tobago House of Assembly, Environment Management
Agency and University of the West Indies-Sustainable Economic Development Unit. The method for
evaluating shoreline protection services from coral reefs was developed jointly by WRI and IMA.
Many organizations contributed data and guidance to this valuation effort, including: the Central
Statistics Office, Caribbean Natural Resources Institute, Environment Tobago, Save our Sea Turtles,
Travel Foundation, R&Sea Divers, Fisherfolk Association, and Tobago Reef Operators Association.
Contacts at World Resources Institute:
Lauretta Burke, +1 (202) 729 7774, lauretta(@wri.org
Emily Cooper, +1 (202) 729 7665, ecooper(@wri.org
Paul Mackie, +1 (202) 729 7684, pmackie(@wri.org
www.reefsatrisk. wri. org
Contacts in Trinidad and Tobago:
BRT Hyacinth Armstrong, +868 635 2000, h.armstrong(@buccooreef.org
IMA Sean Paddy, (868) 634 4291 x405, spaddy@(ima.gov.tt
Coastal Capital Tobago