How much is the Great Barrier Reef worth? Study shows it’s too big to fail

26 Jun 2017

Coral of the Great Barrier Reef. Image: Andrea Izzotti/Shutterstock

A financial analysis of the Great Barrier Reef has put a value on the World Heritage-listed region, and it seems that it is too big to fail for Australia.

While the world continues to see the visible effects of climate change, nowhere has it arguably been more visible than at the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia.

Last April, a survey of the vast underwater region showed that the past few years have devastated the region with mass bleaching of the coral occurring, unrelated to the natural effects of El Niño.

Future Human

Aside from the natural damage of the reef, a new study looking into its worth to the local Australian population from an economic perspective is enough to make them worry for their future.

Conducted by the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, the study has run the numbers and found that the reef is worth a total of AUS$56bn for its economic, social and iconic asset value to Australia.

Looking specifically at the economy, the report estimated that the reef contributes AUS$6.4bn to the national economy due to the thousands of tourists who flock to the region to see the reef for themselves.

In addition, this economy drives job creation in the country, supporting 64,000 jobs both in terms of coastal tourism and the major companies that support it, such as the national airline, Qantas.

These figures, the organisation said, show that Australia’s future is heavily reliant on protecting the Great Barrier Reef, believing its destruction would bring serious consequences, not only to Australia, but the world.

A global treasure

“As the largest living structure on Earth and one of the world’s most complex and diverse natural ecosystems, the Great Barrier Reef is justifiably considered priceless and irreplaceable,” said the organisation’s director, Steve Sargent.

“This report sends a clear message that the Great Barrier Reef – as an ecosystem, as an economic driver, as a global treasure – is too big to fail.”

The survey was conducted among 1,500 Australian and international respondents from 10 countries with two-thirds of the survey respondents saying they were prepared to pay to protect the reef, based on its importance to the planet.

The report follows a summit held in May by the Australian government with marine experts to draw up a plan for how best to tackle the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef.

Aside from reducing the planet’s carbon footprint and curb pollution, suggestions included increased monitoring of the site and the development of coral nurseries.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic