Today, the State Government of Quintana Roo, Mexico, announced that the first-ever insurance policy will be put in place on a portion of the Mesoamerican Reef in the Mexican Caribbean- a timely development given that June 1st marks the first day of the Atlantic hurricane season. The Nature Conservancy (TNC) applauds this bold and critical move by the government. The purchase of this insurance policy, which will be provided by the Mexico-based Afirme Seguros, is an important step in what is an innovative approach for the protection of a valuable natural asset, benefitting both people and nature.
Reefs sustain the tourism industry of Quintana Roo by providing valuable coastal protection against storms, reducing beach erosion, producing white sand, and attracting over one million snorkelers and scuba divers a year. Extreme storms put these services at risk. Category 4 hurricanes, for example, can wipe out up to 60% of live coral cover and cause severe structural damage in just a few hours.
In order to protect people and the local economy from threats of these intense storms, TNC, the Quintana Roo State Government, the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP), and a collection of other partners devised the concept of a reef insurance policy. The policy secures funding to quickly repair damages to the reef following a hurricane, thereby preventing long-term damage and enhancing protection of the onshore community.
"We are taking "insurance for nature" from concept to reality," said Mark Tercek, CEO of The Nature Conservancy. "This first-of-its-kind insurance policy helps protect both ecosystems and economies from the negative impacts of extreme storms, which will likely increase with climate change. We now have a tangible example of how mainstream financial mechanisms can be used to benefit nature--and we look forward to replicating this approach in the Caribbean, Central America, North America, and the Asia-Pacific region."
"We hope this insurance approach will serve as a scalable model to build new financial mechanisms for the protection of nature," said Mark Way, Director of Global Coastal Risk and Resilience at The Nature Conservancy. "This will help ensure that people and the economy will continue to benefit from the valuable services nature provides us with. The Mesoamerican Reef plays a critical role in protecting residents, tourists, and businesses from storm surge and daily erosion of the coastline."
"A major risk to coral reefs in the Caribbean are hurricanes, which can destroy coral cover almost immediately. It is essential to have the capacity to repair the reef after a major storm event," said Fernando Secaira, Climate Risk and Resilience Lead, Mexico and Northern Central America, The Nature Conservancy. "This capacity includes two components: well trained brigades which can immediately attend to and repair the damages to the reef, and an insurance policy to finance these rapid-response efforts and the necessary long term repairs".
For these reasons, along with setting up the insurance and a financial mechanism, TNC worked with CONANP and the Center for Research in Fisheries and Acuaculture (CRIAP) to train these response teams, called Guardians of the Reef, who have the capacity to rehabilitate battered coral reefs along the Mexican Caribbean after a hurricane. 40 Guardians of the Reef volunteers were trained in Puerto Morelos in 2018, and 20 more will participate in an additional training this June in Isla Mujeres, bringing the total number of trained reef guardians to 60 in this region.
The Quintana Roo State Government announced the formation of the Coastal Zone Management Trust to finance the insurance policy and promote the conservation of coastal areas in the Mexican Caribbean in March of 2018 at The Economist World Ocean Summit. This trust will direct conservation investments for the maintenance and repair of the reef and beaches while managing the insurance payout and ensuring conservation goals are achieved.
TNC and its partners, which include the state government of Quintana Roo, the Cancun and Puerto Morelos Hotel Owners' Association, CONANP, Mexican Universities and representaives of the insurance industry, have been working on this project since 2014, to ensure that reefs continue to provide the services that are fundamental for the people and the economy of Quintana Roo and Mexico.