How many people are dependent upon coral reefs?

Worldwide, about 500 million people have some level of dependence upon coral reefs.

Millions of people around the world, like these women in Papua New Guinea, have some level of dependence upon coral reefs. Photo credit: Christy Loper

They depend upon coral reefs for food resources and/or supplementary income from fishing, coastal protection, building materials, and income from tourism. About 30 million people are virtually totally dependent on coral reefs for their livelihoods or for the land they live on (atolls).[a]

Healthy coral reefs are among the most biologically diverse and economically valuable ecosystems on earth, providing valuable and vital ecosystem services. Declining reef health is detrimental not only to creatures inhabiting coral ecosystems, but also to the human populations that depend upon them. Learn more about the value of reefs and what is being done to conserve them for future generations, including what you can do to help


  • Wilkinson, C. 2008. Status of the Coral Reefs of the World: 2008. Townsville, Australia. Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network and Reef and Rainforest Research Centre.