Valuing the Caribbean Sea

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WASHINGTON (CARIBUPDATE/Sept 15, 2016) -A World Bank report released this week has put the economic value of the Caribbean Sea to the region — to include all its services, from fishing, transport, trade, tourism, mining, waste disposal, energy, carbon sequestration and drug development — at (U.S.)$407 billion per year based on 2012 data, or just shy of 18 percent of the region’s total GDP.

The figure, it concedes, is an underestimation because the region’s ocean economy to date “is not well measured or understood.” Nonetheless, it is projected to nearly double by 2050. In tandem with that increase in economic activity and earning is a projected rise in the number of threats to the ocean from the very activities which it supports.

“In the Caribbean Sea, 70 percent of beaches are eroded due to destroyed reefs, sea level rise, [and] excessive coastal development. Eighty percent of living coral is now dead and lost, 85 percent of wastewater is untreated and dumped into the sea. By 2030, plastics will surpass the weight of fish in the sea,” said World Bank senior economist and co-author of the report, Pawan Patil.

The other authors were John Virdin, Sylvia Michele Diaz, Julian Roberts, and Asha Singh.

The team found, too, that 46,000 pieces of plastic are estimated to be afloat on every square mile of the ocean. That puts the Caribbean Sea’s (U.S.)$5-billion annual trade, its 200,000 direct jobs, its 100,000 ancillary services, food security for 40 million coastal inhabitants, and over (U.S.)$2 billion in dive tourism at risk.

“The goal, then, is to decouple economic growth from environmental decline,” according to the report.

“The Caribbean needs the ocean as a source of wealth but it also needs to protect the ocean as a future source of wealth,” World Bank Country Manager for the Caribbean Sophie Sirtaine said, stressing the need for the oceans to be sustainably developed.

She was speaking at the media launch of the report at the World Bank’s Washington office, in which journalists from the region participated via the Internet and phone.

The report, titled “Toward a Blue Economy: A promise for Sustainable Growth in the Caribbean,” was released ahead of the third Our Ocean conference to be hosted by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Washington, D.C., tomorrow and Thursday, and International Coastal Clean-up Day, to be observed on Saturday.

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