Sunday, July 21, 2024

Reef restoration continues at Turneffe Atoll following Hurricane Lisa via MAR Fund Insurance


On November 2nd, Category 1 Hurricane Lisa battered a section of the Belize Barrier Reef system by Turneffe Atoll as the storm moved towards mainland Belize. The damage caused to the fragile corals became a concern as it was unknown where the resources would come from to assess and restore the affected areas. That problem was soon resolved after a $175,000 payout under the Mesoamerican Reef (MAR) Insurance Programme was issued to finance an immediate reef response.
This is the first time a payout has been issued under this insurance. The policy is a pilot project developed by MAR Fund covering the whole region, including Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras. MAR Fund’s Executive Director, Biologist Maria Jose Gonzalez explained the program designed a type of insurance called parametric policy. It was developed with the collaboration of other agencies like Willis Towers Watson’s Climate and Resilience Hub and co-founded by the InsuResilience Solutions Fund. The program, launched in 2021, uses a pre-arranged, trigger-based financing model that supports rapid reef response following damaging natural disasters such as hurricanes.
Gonzalez said such a policy would increase the time of reef recovery following a natural disaster. “Reefs protect the coastline from hurricanes,” said Gonzelez. “After a hurricane, they are damaged, and we need to speed up the restoration. The insurance aims to cover the restoration cost.” Gonzalez stated the insurance payout would support exercises such as assessment of the affected area by trained personnel. After an idea of the damage and the restoration cost, special brigades start the work. “In the initial emergency response, what takes place is cleaning up debris, and then restoration can begin by either planting or stabilizing disturbed corals,” said Gonzalez. This is what kicks start the restoration process for the affected corals. Gonzalez hopes that the funds obtained from the insurance acquired under MAR Fund will help speed up restoring the reef at Turneffe Atoll.
The personnel involved in assessing and restoring the damaged barrier reef are organized into ‘brigades’ governed and coordinated by the Fisheries Department and the Turneffe Atoll Sustainability Association (TASA) in the country. TASA’s Executive Director Valdemar Andrade said that the Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve reefs took a direct hit from Hurricane Lisa. “After such a mental, economic, and environmental shock, having parametric insurance facilitated by MAR Fun to finance our response and aid the recovery of our reefs created peace of mind and hope for rebounding and future resilience,” said Andrade. The work by the brigades is expected to conclude in a couple of weeks. The brigades comprise members from TASA, Fisheries Department, Hol Chan Marine Reserve, the Belize Audubon Society, and The Nature Conservancy.
The swift payout underscores the value proposition of parametric insurance enabling immediate finance to rehabilitate and minimize damage to the insured coral reefs. TASA thanks its unconditional partners for the continued support of the restoration efforts to the MAR Fund for supporting the conservation efforts of the Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve.

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