[Coral-List] Economic Valuation and market based conservation

Steve Mussman sealab at earthlink.net
Wed Aug 24 16:15:23 EDT 2011

An email which contained information about REEF's lionfish derby 
made me think of discussions on the list relating to the complexities
involved in assessing the economic value of coral reef systems and
how this relates to the acute need to increase public awareness
of the mounting crisis in coral reef ecology world wide. 


Promoting lionfish "derbies" is a great illustration of the conundrum
that we face in our attempt to deal with issues relating to coral reef 
conservation as it applies to economic valuation. We have an invasive 
species whose very presence in the area brings legitimate concerns, but 
in finding creative ways to perhaps control their population (and stimulate
economic activity / tourism), have we really considered all the implications 
on the reefs themselves?

>From my experience in hunting lionfish (within coral reef systems),
it is extremely difficult to spear and capture this species without 
impacting the reef habitat in which it resides.(I know this dynamic 
also comes into play during the sportsman's lobster season).  

So here is a good one to ponder.

How do we appraise the value of the negative impact of the lionfish
on our reefs and then compare that to the costs of the potential damage 
caused by divers contact with the reefs that will undoubtedly result from 
their enthusiastic pursuit of the honor and prize money offered for winning 
the event? 

Ex.  If 675 lionfish were removed during the competition, how would 
you calculate the positive value to the reef ecosystem? In doing so would
you need to also evaluate and put a price on the extent of physical damage 
sustained by the reef in the effort? And, of course, what about the value
of the economic impact that holding the event brings to the local business 

I certainly don’t have the answers, but I believe that this scenario 
reflects on the difficulties and complications of the issue before us.
All the while, these factors and many more seem to be extracting their
toll on the reefs we are all trying to conserve and protect for 
future generations.

One more personal note. Earlier this month I encountered the first 
lionfish that I’ve ever seen in the Gulf of Mexico on a wreck off the 
coast of Panama City Beach, Florida. I expect this episode to become a 
common occurrence in the years to come even if the diving community 
aggressively attempts to eradicate the uninvited intruders on sight. 

Steve Mussman
Sea Lab Diving 

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