Coral Reef NOAA
May 27, 2016  

How do coral reefs benefit the economy?

Coral reefs support jobs, tourism, and fisheries.

Close up of coral with fish and diver in the background.
Like many reefs, this coral reef in Belize attracts SCUBA divers. In 2008 alone, one major dive certification company certified over 500,000 new divers worldwide. [a] Photo credit: Dave Burdick

Healthy coral reefs support commercial and subsistence fisheries as well as jobs and businesses through tourism and recreation. Approximately half of all federally managed fisheries depend on coral reefs and related habitats for a portion of their life cycles. The NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service estimates the commercial value of U.S. fisheries from coral reefs is over $100 million.

Local economies also receive billions of dollars from visitors to reefs through diving tours, recreational fishing trips, hotels, restaurants, and other businesses based near reef ecosystems. Globally, coral reefs provide a net benefit of $9.6 billion/year from tourism and recreation revenues and $5.7 billion/year from fisheries. The NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service estimates the annual commercial value of US fisheries from coral reefs to be over $100 million. Reef-based recreational fisheries generate over $100 million annually in the US. [b]

Despite their great economic and recreational value, coral reefs are severely threatened by climate change, impacts of fishing, and land-based sources of pollution, among other threats. Once coral reefs are damaged, they are less able to support the many creatures that inhabit them. When a coral reef supports fewer fish, plants, and animals, it also loses value as a tourist destination and lessens its ability to support fisheries.