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Assessing the economic value of coral reefs to Solomon Island communities

Economic Valuation of Coral Reefs and Development of Sustainable Financing Options in the Solomon Islands
Project leader
Joelle Albert
1 Sep 2011
31 Mar 2012

Solomon Islands reefs provide valuable goods and services. Photo credit Simon Albert.

Coral reefs under pressure

Coastal communities in Solomon Islands, like many island countries, rely heavily on their coral reef resources for subsistence and income generation. These reefs, similar to others throughout the world are under pressure from human induced impacts and over harvesting. In Solomon Islands, a growing demand for coral for the international aquarium and curio trade, as well as a local demand for betel nut lime (made from live coral) further intensifies stress on the reefs. The collection of coral for these activities can result in the removal of specific coral types, and localised destruction of the reef habitat. This in turn can have major ecological impacts on other reef dependent species like fish and invertebrates. The degradation of the reef can affect the resilience of the whole ecosystem, and its ability to recover from both natural and anthropogenic impacts. A damaged reef system may also lead to negative socio-economic flow-on effects to the communities’ dependant on them.

Looking for Solomon Island solutions

The WorldFish Center, in partnership with the ADB-RETA and MFMR, is receiving Australian Government funding to undertake economic valuation of Solomon Island coral reefs focused on the role of the aquarium, curio and betel nut trades within several case-study communities. The objective of this project is to gain a better understanding of the economic value of coral reefs in Solomon Islands (direct and indirect) and assess whether sustainable financing modalities can be developed using the sustainable culture of coral. The outcomes from this work will provide an economic basis for communities to make decisions about their reef management as well as providing recommendations and policy advice to the Solomon Island Government.

Case study communities provide answers

Two villages from the Western province and two from the Central province of Solomon Islands were selected as case studies. They represent areas where wild coral harvesting (for the aquarium and curio trades) occurs, as well as those areas where it does not. Interviews have been held with community members and key informants to assess the direct economic value of the reef (goods and services) and to discuss willingness of communities to change wild harvesting practices. These interviews have elicited valuable information to feed into the economic valuation of the reefs and subsequent assessment of alternative income generating options.
Based on the outcomes of the interviews and discussions, we will provide information to back to the communities on the value of their reef resources as well as alternative ways to sustainably source coral, while ensuring better management of the reef.

Research provides economic basis for reef management decisions

This project will provide information to participating communities on the economic value of their reefs goods and services. By conducting an analysis of trade flows that compares ‘no harvesting’, ‘wild harvest’ and ‘sustainable cultivation of coral’, and giving this data to communities as ‘scenario-based’ economic valuation of reefs, they will have an economic basis for making decisions about wild coral harvesting and reef management.

Although based only on a few case-study communities, the project will provide the first estimates of the economic value of coral reefs in the Solomon Islands.  With the addition of national level statistics, a bigger picture understanding of the economic value of Solomon Islands reefs and the role that extractive activities (such as the wild harvest of corals for the aquarium, curio and local trades) play in this economic picture can be built into national policy.  Through partnerships with the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources this information and data will contribute to the development of Solomon Island Coral Management Plan and the National Aquaculture Plan which are key activities for 2012 as outlined in the MFMR 2011 – 2012 Corporate Plan. The outcomes from this project will also be incorporated into appropriately targeted communication and awareness materials for communities to increase basic awareness about destructive activities. It is expected that valuable recommendations regarding the potential of sustainable coral farming and broader reef management practices will have application in many other countries within the Coral Triangle.