....Marine parks, a US$ multi-million asset but....
Studies undertaken on the contribution of Jamaica?s marine parks to the economy over the decades by several entities, including the University of the West Indies (UWI), have shown that these areas are worth hundreds of millions of United States dollars.
In 2001, the UWI's Department of Geology and Geography conducted a study titled, 'Socio-Economic Valuation Study of the Ocho Rios Marine Park,' which was designed to quantify the economic and social value of the marine and coastal zone resources within the boundaries of the Ocho Rios Marine Park in St Ann.
The study highlights some of the benefits that were, at the time, accruing to Ocho Rios, through the utilisation of the marine and coastal zone resources.
The study, which described the Ocho Rios Marine Park as lying between the border of Drax Hall and Mammee Bay to the west, Frankfort Point to the east and out to sea as far as the 1000 metres contour line, listed beaches, coral reef and seagrass communities, fresh and marine water quality and fishery as resources critical to the ecological integrity and economic sustainability of Ocho Rios.
"The economic and social resource valuation demonstrates the fundamental importance of the coastal and marine ecosystems of Ocho Rios to the viability of the town, through a combination of economic, social and cultural factors. The total economic value of the coastal and marine park resources was estimated at US$245.2 million," the report stated.
The report also stated that the loss that would result from coastal resource degradation was estimated at US$60.8 million annually and would impact several critical sectors.
"The economic impact of this loss (projected) is particularly great in the tourists accommodation sector, which it is estimated would lose US$35.8 million annually," the report stated. "The projected economic impacts of the potential resource degradation will inevitably affect the socio-economic well-being of the workers in the tourism industry."
The report also highlighted the huge social impacts of marine and coastal resource degradation that would occur, including increased unemployment, reduced business activity, increases in crimes, and increases in tourist harassment, and also, the social measures of resource worth.
"These social measures, though inextricably linked to the economic worth, are additionally reflective of the attractiveness, pleasure and aesthetic value of the resources to visitors and local residents ... the protection and preservation of these resources are critical to the economic and social well-being of the community. Their significance is not only at the local level through support of local economic activity, but also at the national level," the report noted.
The report also noted that, in an examination of the benefits received through the utilisation of the Ocho Rios marine and coastal resources, the cost associated with overuse and/or misuse should be highlighted.
"In evaluating the costs, not only must degradation in the quantity and quality of resources be considered, but so also must the economic loss in associated industries be taken into account," the report noted.