Global insurer to expand study on Caribbean coral

HAMILTON, Bermuda (CMC) – A global specialty property insurer has announced that it is expanding its study of coral reefs with a new campaign in the Caribbean and Bermuda.

On Thursday, the Catlin Group Limited said based on the Catlin Seaview Survey, it will “significantly widen opportunities for ocean, coral and climate scientists to understand the changes occurring within the region.”

According to the Catlin Group Limited, coral reefs in the Caribbean and Atlantic, like elsewhere, are undergoing environmental stress.

The group said the survey started in Belize and will move on to Mexico, Anguilla, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Guadeloupe, Turks and Caicos and the Bahamas in the coming months.

It will also explore the coral reefs off Bermuda in September.

“Coral reefs in the Caribbean and Atlantic, like elsewhere, are undergoing environmental stress; being highly sensitive to environmental change, corals are considered the ‘canary in the coal mine’ when it comes to impacts of climate change and ocean acidification,” the group said in a statement.

“Exploitation, pollution, warming waters and increased storms linked with climate change (have) caused the massive loss of corals across the Caribbean over the past 50 years,” it continued.

The loss of coral reefs has long-term implications for Caribbean economies, given their dependence on reefs and other marine ecosystems for goods, services and economic welfare.

According to the World Resources Institute, the value of shoreline protection provided by Caribbean reefs is between US$700 million and US$2.2 billion per year.

Within the next 50 years, coral degradation and death could lead to annual losses totalling US$140 million to US$420 million, the institute said.

“We are committed to understanding the future risks posed by climate change,” said Stephen Catlin, chief executive of Catlin Group Limited.

“The Caribbean was chosen to launch the global mission because it is at the front line of risk,” said Richard Vevers, project director for the Catlin Seaview Survey.

“Over the last 50 years, 80 per cent of the corals in many places in the Caribbean have disappeared because of coastal development and pollution,” he added. “They now are also threatened by invasive species, climate change and ocean acidification — it’s the perfect storm.”