Estimating and comparing the direct economic contributions of reef fisheries and tourism in the Asia-Pacific

Henry A. Bartelet, Michele L. Barnes, Graeme S. Cumming

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Global estimates of the economic value of coral reefs have been made using benefit transfer and other valuation methods, but it is unclear whether these estimates match actualized values (e.g. market values of reef fish and reef tourism) or how they scale to specific regions. Here we empirically estimated the (actualized) direct economic contribution of fishing and tourism on coral reefs (i.e., direct use values) in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region, which includes a majority (∼80%) of the global reef area. We found that coral reefs in the APAC region directly contributed $25 billion annually on average over the years 2008–2012 to the region's economy from fishing and tourism alone. The majority of direct economic contributions (US$19.5 billion) was provided by reef tourism, while the remainder was divided between artisanal (US$2.4 billion) and industrial (US$3.2 billion) fisheries. The average economic productivity of coral reefs was estimated at US$112,000 per square kilometer of coral reef, although there were large deviations between countries in terms of economic utilization of their reefs. Our findings suggest that a highly-cited prior estimate of the global potential value of coral reefs (Cesar et al., 2003) is likely a significant underestimation of actual economic contributions. We discuss some of the implications for reef management. Most notably, our results indicate that the non-consumptive direct use of reef resources provide substantially more economic benefits than consumptive uses.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105939
JournalMarine Policy
Early online date19 Nov 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024


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