Of the roughly 195 countries, over 100 of them have coral reefs present on their coasts with roughly half a billion people relying on them for sustenance and income (Moberg & Folke, 1999). They provide vast economic benefits from tourism and fishery industries (Burke et al., 2011), are a part of cultural and religious practices in coastal communities around the globe, and have an intrinsic aesthetic value (cf. de Groot, 1992).
Social and Economic Dependence on Coral Reefs (c) World Resources Institute
Seafood such as fish, mussels, crustaceans, seaweed, and sea cucumbers generated from coral reefs provide protein for coastal communities. Although these species provide sustenance for coastal communities, overfishing has led to the loss of fishing jobs (McAllister, 1998).
Coral reefs also provide medicinal benefits. Raw materials derived from seaweed, sponges, mollusks, and corals are used for medicines to combat diseases such as AIDS and cancer and in surgical procedures (Moberg & Folke, 1999).
Tourism to coral reefs generates an enormous amount of income annually contributing to the creation of hundreds of thousands of jobs globally. In 1990, over 8 billion dollars were generated in the Caribbean alone, employing over 350,000 people (Dixon et al., 1993). In addition, souvenirs such as jewelry and ornaments made from shells and coral are collected and sold (Moberg & Folke, 1999).