Protecting coral reefs against hurricane damage

Around the world, coral reefs harbour rich marine ecosystems and are vital for coastal protection. However, they are under threat from a number of sources: disease, bleaching events, diminishing herbivores, algae overgrowth. The most important short-term risk affecting reef structures comes from strong hurricanes: A category 4 to 5 hurricane can destroy 20–60% of live coral cover.

In 2018, we supported the design of a new type of insurance product that offers protection against hurricane damage on the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System. Stretching over 1 000 km, this is the second-longest reef system in the world and the longest in the Western hemisphere. Not only is it home to some of the world’s most important and unique coral reefs, mangrove forests, fish species and marine mammals, it also protects the Riviera Maya, Mexico’s primary tourism hub.

The new, innovative parametric insurance solution is designed to protect the coral reef and the beach sand. When triggered by a strong hurricane, it will automatically pay out, thus funding essential restoration measures. Premium payments for the programme will come from the Coastal Zone Management Trust, set up by the state government of Quintana Roo ( with support from The Nature Conservancy ( to protect coastal areas in the Caribbean. The trust in turn will collect funds as a portion of tourism taxes and other government sources.