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Socio-economic assessment of the impacts of the 1998 coral reef bleaching in the Indian Ocean: a summary
Westmacott, S.; Cesar, H.; Pet-Soede, L. (2001). Socio-economic assessment of the impacts of the 1998 coral reef bleaching in the Indian Ocean: a summary. CORDIO-East Africa: [s.l.]. 16 pp.

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  • Westmacott, S.
  • Cesar, H.
  • Pet-Soede, L.

    Coral reefs are a vital resource to many areas of the Indian Ocean. Coastal populations are continuously increasing (Table 1) and relying on this resource as the basis of the economy. Across the region, the two common socio-economic reef based activities are fisheries and tourism. For local subsistence fishermen, reef fisheries often represent their only livelihood. Degradation of coral reefs will first impact the reef fishery and subsequently, the local fishing community. Tourism also is often heavily dependent on coral reefs as the main attraction. The countries of the Indian Ocean vary both physically and socio-economically (Table 1). The size of a country, the area of coral reefs, the coastal population utilising the reefs and the wealth of the country are all indicators of pressure and dependence on reef resources and their ability to cope with impacts such as coral bleaching. CORDIO was initiated in response to degradation of coral reefs caused by the 1998 coral bleaching event. However, other factors, such as rapidly expanding coastal populations or poor planning and management, may also cause reef degradation. Recently, Bryant et al. (1998) estimated that 9 000 km2 of coral reef in the Indian Ocean were at high risk, 10 500 km2 at medium risk and 16 600 km2 at low risk of degradation from coastal development, marine based pollution, overexploitation of marine resources and inland pollution, including sedimentation. Within the CORDIO countries, the level of risk of reef degradation ranges from low in areas like the Chagos archipelago where there is negligible human activity, too high in areas such as Comoros and Mayotte where high population growth rates are exerting increasing pressure on these reefs (Figure 1). This report is a summary of the complete project report assessing the socio-economic impacts of the coral bleaching in the Indian Ocean (Westmacott et al., 2000) and presents the main approaches adopted to determine the importance of fisheries, particularly reef fisheries, and reef based tourism to countries and local communities in this region. Also, this report presents the results of specific case studies of the reef fishery of Kenya and of the tourism sectors of Maldives, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Kenya. In addition, the assessment also highlights the need to account for other threats to coral reefs and the capacity to manage these resources.

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