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A close-up of coral from the Great Barrier Reef in the process of bleaching. Image Credit: Justin Marshsall

The Great Barrier Reef has been valued at $56 billion. So what does this mean for its conservation?

  • BY Angela Heathcote |
  • June 26, 2017

Putting a price on the Great Barrier Reef seems impossible but Deloitte Access Economics have come to a final figure.

A SIX MONTH ANALYSIS on behalf of Deloitte Access Economics has concluded that the economic, social and icon assets value of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is approximately $56 billion.

Drawing on economic and scientific research and a survey of 1500 people from 10 countries, economists were able to arrive at the final figure. 

Additionally, economists found that the reef added $6.4 billion to the Australian economy and created over 64,000 tourism, fishing, recreational and scientific jobs between 2015-16. 

While it may seem impossible to put an exact figure on the GBR's overall value, the report demonstrates that the reef is critical to the economy of the country. 

"The livelihoods and businesses it supports across Australia far exceeds the numbers supported by many industries we would consider too big to fail," the report says. 

Of this $56 billion, the report broke the figure up into three measurements of value:

• Tourism derives $29 billion in value

• Australians that have not yet visited the Reef – but value knowing that it exists: $24 billion.

• Recreational users of the Reef: $3 billion.

The report found that local and international communities value the GBR for varying reasons. 

"Some reasons are more concrete such as their belief in its importance for tourism, while some are more abstract such as their belief that Australia would just not be ‘the same’ without it."

Measuring the importance of the GBR to Indigenous Australians was far more complex, with the report labeling this value "cultural heritage, spiritual and religious, educational, and knowledge services."

However the report does not provide any quantified estimates of the value of the GBR for Indigenous people.

The report cites the various issues facing the Great Barrier Reef and the impact of further declines.

"We have already lost around 50% of the corals on the GBR in the last 30 years. Severe changes in the ocean will see a continued decline ahead of us.

"The significance of its contribution to the Australian economy, to jobs and its remarkable value to Australians and the world suggests the Reef should be given even greater priority by all citizens, businesses and levels of government." 

What does this mean for conservation?

Maxine Newlands, a political scientist lecturing in the College of Art, Society and Education at James Cook University, told Australian Geographic that putting a figure on the Great Barrier Reef's value will make "economics over the environment" arguments null and void.

"Now that they've shown that the reef is actually worth morea lot more than the some of the industrialisation that's planned along Queensland's coastthis will hopefully mean more investment in long term conservation."

When asked about whether it was appropriate to put a dollar figure on the GBR's value, Maxine said unfortunately most things are measured by their economic value.

"There's lots of studies at the CSIRO and other groups that demonstrate that 90% of us identify with the reef and think it's a part of our Australian identity but until the money talks it's very difficult to make an argument based on social or moral positions. Putting the dollar value on something to make it tangible."

You can read Deloitte Access Economics full report here.

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