It’s no secret that Bermuda has some of the most idyllic beaches in the world. Just take a look at the stunning south shore, with miles upon miles of powdery pink sand, a rosy hue derived from a mix of calcium carbonate, crushed coral and pulverized protozoa. Indeed Bermuda is a gem of the Atlantic but the island would be a much different place if it weren’t for it’s thriving coral reefs. Just ask Sir George Somers who shipwrecked on the reefs and eventually, an east end beach creating an island nation in 1609. What? He’s dead? Right, right. Carry on then. According to the Department of Conservation Services, Bermuda’s coral reefs are more than just a popular dive site: A recent departmental study found the island's coral reef ecosystem has a total economic value of more than $700 million, potentially amounting to $1.1 billion per year. In case you’re trying to do the math, that’s 12% of Bermuda’s GDP, which currently is the highest per capita in the world. So how exactly do the reefs generate all that revenue? In addition to supporting a vast network of tourism activity—dive operations, fishing charters, snorkeling outfitters—the reefs provide substantial economic benefits by protecting the coast and its infrastructure from damaging storms and hurricanes. In short, the reefs are Bermuda’s greatest protectors. I’m not sure if we needed a study to tell us how important they are, but to the government's credit, this report solidifies the reefs' value, perceived and otherwise. So the next time you're in the water, think twice before you touch one of Bermuda's most valuable commodities. The reefs are indeed a living, breathing asset.
is a Bermuda-based travel writer and television correspondent. To read his work visit DavidLaHuta.com or to follow him on Twitter visit Twitter.com/DavidLaHuta. Visiting Bermuda? Read his story, 36 Hours in Bermuda, which appeared in the New York Times travel section in September 2009 (http://bit.ly/36HoursBermuda) and Jetsetter's The Many Faces of Bermuda, which ran in January 2011 (http://bit.ly/FacesOfBDA).