The report, commissioned by Great Barrier Reef Foundation, is the first to calculate the economic value of the GBR. It involved a survey of 1,500 Australian and international respondents from 10 countries. The results show the extent to which people have come to depend on the Unesco World Heritage Site.


“This timely report is a much needed, holistic view of the incredible economic value and opportunities provided by the Great Barrier Reef,” noted US politician and environmentalist Al Gore in the report. “Any failure to protect this indispensable natural resource would have profound impacts not only to Australia but around the world.”

Great Barrier Reef Foundation director Steve Sargent said the report “sends a clear message that the Great Barrier Reef—as an ecosystem, as an economic driver, as a global treasure—is too big to fail,” adding that at $56 billion, “the reef is valued at more than 12 Sydney Opera Houses.”

While climate change has been implicated in coral bleaching, there are other factors threatening reefs as well, such as farming runoff, urban development, and cyclic outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish (which prey upon coral polyps). Frequent boating accidents and powerful cyclones aren’t helping matters, either.

Last month, experts gathered in Australia to brainstorm solutions. Ideas included developing coral nurseries, increasing the efficiency and scope of starfish culls, expanding monitoring systems, identifying priority sites of the reef for conservation, and of course, cutting greenhouse gas emissions to prevent a further rise in sea surface temperatures.


By putting the loss of the Great Barrier Reef into economic terms, it’s hoped that people might finally start to take note and respond accordingly. Which is actually kind of sad.

[Deloitte Access Economics]