Underwater World: Coming to a Waterfront Resort Near You
Rebuilding seascapes for underwater tourists, marine entrepreneurs are on the job developing coral condos. Reef Worlds is one firm expanding across underwater ecosystems, according to a Jamaica Observer article:
“Our team was shocked,” Wallace said after reviewing the state of resort waterfronts. “We discovered five-star properties with half-star waterfronts. Zones beyond the high-tide mark where natural reefs, colourful fish, and habitats were, are essentially gone, replaced with some old tyres, turtle grass and dead coral, and this was a global phenomenon.”
Waterfront hotels attract more tourists when offshore coral reefs are healthy diverse ecosystems chock full of exotic species. So private firms are offering to remove turtle grass and old tires and develop technologies and underwater coral seascapes. No one knows the best way to restore coral reefs, so environmental entrepreneurs are searching for strategies and technologies, and for investors and coral reef restoration customers.
Economics is about incentives. When government marine conservation policies threaten waterfront businesses and property owners, not surprisingly more time, money and effort is spent on litigation and lawyers than restoring marine habitats. But when restored ecosystems benefit local businesses and property owners, environmental progress is more likely.
Many people and many environmental organizations care about protecting and restoring coral reefs. But nearby resorts and other firms that benefit financially from healthy coral reefs have strong incentives to take corrective action.
One such firm is Ecotech Marine, and it is in what you might call the “home coral reef” business. Coral reefs are so beautiful that some people want to have them in their living rooms. Ecotech Marine designs and markets home coral reefs, and in addition sponsors coral reef restoration projects.
EcoTech is sponsoring the Coral Restoration Foundation’s Adopt-a-Coral program, with eyes on restoring the Elkhorn (Acropora palmata) and Staghorn (Acropora cervicornis) corals on the Molasses Reef, off the coast of Key Largo, FL. EcoTech will help CRF develop strategies and methods to protect threatened coral species using its state-of-the-art offshore nursery and restoration techniques.
The page includes a nice video of the coral reef restoration work which includes installing sophisticated equipment as well as seed coral.
Sweet! you might say. But sweet part of the problem for Florida’s coral reefs.
The EPA is suing the state of Florida for not reducing nutrient flows into Florida waters. Nutrient runoff into Florida waters is caused in part by four hundred thousands acres of sugar plantations in south Florida producing some thirteen million tons of sugar in 2011 (source).
Reducing pollution from Florida sugar plantations seems costly, as does reducing sugar production. But actually it is sugar production in Florida itself that is costly for American taxpayers and consumers. Turns out much less Florida sugar would be produced without diverse Federal sugar subsidies and import restrictions.
This March 13, 2013 WSJ article, “Big Sugar is Set for a Sweet Bailout” explains the latest chapter in the decades-long interventionist dynamics of the sugar industry (may be paywalled).
Interventionist dynamics means the ongoing political and economic consequences of government intervention in the economy. Government programs to support sugar producers may be designed to be modest efforts but they soon cause sugar production to go up, which pushes sugar prices lower, which hurts producers. So government looks to further legislation to fix the overproduction problem, but that causes later problems inspiring further legislation. Over the years layer upon layer of legislation makes sugar production ever more complex and convoluted, and tends to benefit established sugar producers while costing consumers and taxpayers millions or billions of dollars.
This review of Sanford Ikeda’s Dynamics of the Mixed Economy: Toward a Theory of Interventionism in The Freeman discusses interventionist dynamics in the mixed economy (the review is free but the book is $190).
In addition to costly economic consequences, government interventions in agriculture often result in costly environmental consequences. Conversion of much of the Florida everglades to heavily-fertilized sugar cultivation is one of those consequences, as is fresh water diversion and nutrient-rich runoff into Florida rivers and coastal areas where coral reefs are damaged. (Debaters may notice I don’t have an article supporting a direct link between Florida sugar production and coastal coral reef damage.)
There is a lot to do to protect coral reefs, and to restore reefs already damaged. There are many players in this story, some reaping subsidies and causing environmental damage (“big sugar”) and others eager to earn money restoring or creating coral reef ecosystems that will attract tourists (Reef World, for example). Also various nonprofits are accepting donations to carry out reef restoration and lobby governments for more legislation designed to help. Plus EPA, NOAA and other federal government agencies are involved.
Reef World offers a relaxing video explaining its projects and goals here:
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