Lonely Planet Writer

A section of coral reef off Mexico has been given its own insurance policy

A section of the Mesoamerican coral reef off the coast of Puerto Morelos in Mexico is set to make history. Thanks to the newly-founded Reef and Beach Resilience and Insurance Fund (RRIF), local businesses will contribute to an insurance policy that will protect the 40-mile length of colourful reef.

Scuba diver sorrounded by silversides fish and soft coral Puerto Morelos Riviera Maya near Cancun and Playa del Carmen México, Caribbean sea. Image by Luis Javier Sandoval/Getty Images

This unusual action is due to the increasing threats facing coral all around the world; storm damage and pollution are just two ways this delicate eco-system can be damaged. Working with the Nature Conservancy, insurance company Swiss Re AG are setting up the policy. In the event of damage, payouts will ensure the reef is restored to its former glory.

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The pilot fund, according to the Nature Conservancy, is “developing in the resort towns of Cancún and Puerto Morelos, Mexico, where the economy and community are heavily dependent on tourism related to the Mesoamerican reef and the beautiful beaches. The pilot will demonstrate how to insure coastal natural ecosystems that support tourism and offer an associated source of funding for ongoing reef protection and repair.”

Mexican coral reef to be insured. Image by Eye Ubiquitous/UIG via Getty Images

Not only incredibly visually striking, reefs provide a line of defence for shoreline communities. “Nature, including coral reefs, mangroves, wetlands, sand dunes and healthy beaches, provides the first lines of defence to slow waves, reduce flooding and protect coastal people and property. Although seawalls, breakwaters and sand bags often come to mind as traditional disaster preparedness tools, these are not the only options—sometimes they aren’t even the best options. For example, a healthy coral reef can reduce 97% of a wave’s energy before it hits the shore, and just 100 meters of mangroves can reduce wave height by 66%.”

 

The project has been more than two years in the making, but provides a useful model for similar future endeavours. “Through forming alliances on the ground with Mexican entities, government agencies and academic institutions”, say the Nature Conservancy, “as well as conducting in-depth interviews with important stakeholders, TNC has laid the groundwork for a scalable way vulnerable coastal communities can strengthen their physical and financial resilience against climate change.”