International Coral Reef 
Action Network
ICRAN Strategic Plan
Draft of 23 June 2000
Component 2
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Component 2- Assessment

An integrated series of selected global assessment activities to enable efficient management of coral reef areas by providing essential information

Effective management of coral reefs and the people visiting or living near them can only occur through supportive policies, enhanced capacity, sustainable financing and significant on-the-ground actions that are based on appropriate information, knowledge and awareness. The second emphasis of ICRAN will focus on supporting the Implementation component and its ICM and MPA management programs - aimed at municipal, provincial, national and regional levels. Detailed assessments and information will assist policy makers, managers and the general public in being fully aware of the location, extent, fisheries production, value - social, economic and cultural—and status of coral reefs, and of the legislative changes necessary to ensure their survival. For most coral reef countries of the world, this information has never been assembled or is unknown. 

The ICRAN actions described below are directly linked to the Implementation component by focusing on the priority locations identified, the potential threats to these priority regions and sites, and the value and importance of coral reef resources to their communities. The information resulting from these actions will be assembled and provided to each of the members of the ICRAN Network in strengthening capacity to better manage their actions and impacts on coral reefs, and in fostering village-to-village transfer of knowledge and good practice. The assessment activities will be undertaken in close coordination with the Regional Seas Coordinating Units. 

A. Reefs at Risk - analysis on a region-by-region basis (WRI) 

The World Resources Institute (WRI) in collaboration with ICLARM, the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC), and UNEP produced the first global assessment12 of coral reefs to determine areas at risk from overfishing, coastal development, and other human activity. Reefs at Risk is a threat-based indicator of the world's coral reefs, and uses the power of a Geographic Information System to model risk factors. The global Reefs at Risk found that nearly 60 percent of the earth's coral reefs are threatened by human activity ranging from coastal development and overfishing, to inland and marine pollution, placing much of the world's marine biodiversity at risk. In addition, the report concludes that while reefs provide billions of people and hundreds of countries with food, tourism revenue, coastal protection and new medications for increasingly drug-resistant diseases, which together are worth about $375 billion each year, they are among the least monitored and protected natural habitats in the world. 

As a global assessment, Reefs at Risk is an important first step, but is acknowledged as being incomplete—based upon the scale of the assessment, and data gaps in many cases—and has required the use of various assumptions in the absence of more detailed information. By focusing on a regional level, Reefs at Risk can use more refined information in addressing smaller scale phenomena, and in refining its predictive modeling. This will significantly enhance both the scale and analysis of risks to coral reefs, contributing enhanced information to local communities, and will greatly improve the value of revising any future global assessment of the risks affecting coral reefs. 


Key findings of the global analysis determined that the coral reefs of Southeast Asia were the most species-rich on earth, and the most threatened of any region (more than 80 percent are at risk, primarily from coastal development and fishing-related pressures). Consequently, an in-depth, regional Reefs at Risk analysis is being conducted in the Southeast Asia Region as part of the ICRAN Start-up Phase. As with the global analysis, this highly collaborative work is shared between WRI and its other international partners (especially WCMC, ICLARM, UNEP and the GCRMN), but also with national partners within the different regions, including governmental, university, and NGO representatives. It is through these partnerships, and through the open sharing of data, that such work develops the sense of regional ownership and importance to be effective. 

The Regional Reefs at Risk analysis will focus on the Caribbean as the first priority area for the Action phase. Nearly two-thirds of Caribbean reefs (including those within US waters in Florida, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands) are in jeopardy. Most of the reefs on the Antilles chain, including the islands of Jamaica, Barbados, Dominica and other vacation favorites, are at high risk. Reefs off Jamaica, for example, have been ravaged as a result of overfishing and pollution. Many resemble graveyards, algae-covered and depleted of fish. 

Assessments will follow in the Pacific, East Africa, South Asia and the seas of the middle east13 in years 2, 3, and 4. Year four is also reserved for synthesis and a revised global analysis based on the improved information. 


Each Regional Risk analysis will produce a stand-alone report, poster and integrated set of data available on CD and the Internet within eight months of completion of the analysis. These more detailed reports will help local decision-makers understand the range, type and location of the threats that may impact their coral reef resources, and provide an important information base for management interventions. In the final year, a revised global analysis incorporating the results from the ICRAN Assessment component will be conducted, resulting in a global atlas of reef status. All data used in the analyses and the published outputs will be disseminated over the Internet and on CD-ROMs via ReefBase and existing regional databases. Reefs at Risk will contribute data to the standard sets of coral reef maps developed by WCMC (see Activity B below). 

Reefs at Risk will work with some of the other ICRAN partners of the Assessment Component to ensure that timing is effective in contributing to the various RSPs during implementation (see Section II). 

B. Coral Reef Mapping by Country (UNEP-WCMC)

For any business to succeed, it has to understand and manage its inventory. While there is standard agreement among scientists and managers that decline in the health of the world's coral reefs is underway, a comprehensive understanding of the location and extent of the world's coral reefs in any detail remains a significant problem. Basic inventory maps that show the aerial extent and features of coral reefs are practically non-existent for most regions. This information is crucial for managers, especially in determining sensitive areas, or to establish multiple-use zoning schemes. A set of standard maps of the world's most significant reefs at selected scales will be produced for ICRAN to eliminate this gap in our knowledge. For the past five years UNEP-WCMC has been developing a global map of coral reefs, which already gives the ICRAN project a considerable lead in much of its map-based work. Although this represents the majority of the world's reefs, the working scales of the source materials used in the development of this map are highly varied, as is the quality of many of the source materials. Under ICRAN support, the Centre will bring the base level of its maps up to a minimum standard, with a base scale of 1:250,000 for at least 80 percent of the world's reefs. This work will be undertaken on a region-by-region basis, in parallel with the regional Reefs at Risk Analyses conducted by WRI. Coral reefs within MPAs will be mapped at scales appropriate to the management regime and size of the MPA. Additional efforts will be focused on improving existing regional maps to include increasingly available information on subsurface reefs and other ecosystems, such as seagrass beds (which have ecological connections to coral reefs but are poorly understood). Satellite remote sensing will be a new source of global data for coral reefs. A complete revision of the UNEP-WCMC global MPA database will also allow an assessment of the protection afforded to reefs by protected areas. 

The reef mapping work will be fully collaborative. The Centre will manage these activities, but will seek to work in close collaboration with regional and national organizations and space agencies to develop the best possible data sets. Similarly every effort will be made to encourage the free flow of information from the Centre to all interested parties. 

In a complementary effort, the US Coral Reef Task Force has set as one of its main goals the mapping of coral reefs of the US and its territorial waters, using a combination of high and low resolution products. This information will contribute significantly toward the global effort in mapping coral reefs, and will allow the WCMC to focus on other regions and countries. 


UNEP-WCMC will coordinate production of its map products with the Regional Reefs at Risk and the Regional Seas Coordinators, as the various RSPs are brought into the network. (see Section II). 


The Centre will produce a completely revised set of coral reef maps of the world to directly benefit regional coastal management and MPA networks, and provide the required base for ICRAN's assessment activities. Working maps will be produced on an as-needed basis, while final versions will be output on an annual basis for the ongoing work with different Regional Seas areas, and for incorporation into ReefBase. Maps will also be published and disseminated over the Internet and on CD-ROMs via ReefBase and existing regional databases. 

Depending on the scale and level of detail, mapping products can involve a broad range of costs. As an example, the US Coral Reef Task Force Working Group on mapping and information synthesis for coral reefs within US waters and its territories has estimated approximately $1.5 million per year over 5-7 years for high resolution products. The UNEP-WCMC global mapping for coral reefs will involve lower resolution in most cases, but of significant value for planners and managers. It should be noted that this effort employs technology proven over the past 15 years in developing base map products. However, the spatial coverage, scale, more complete incorporation of satellite imagery, and quality assurance of these maps will be markedly enhanced under optimum funding. 

C. Coral Reef Valuation by Country (ICLARM)

Most governments prioritize their governance in terms of the economic importance of resources and activities to the country, provided they have information on such values. In fact, the argument of a nation's "natural capital" emphasizes the interest in assigning some legitimate, quantifiable value to its resources. Only a few countries have made estimations of the economic value of their coral reefs, and a very rough estimate has been made for the value of reefs globally. In all cases, the methods have varied tremendously as the field of resource valuation and knowledge about coral reefs has evolved. According to one estimate, the world's coral reef habitats provide humans with living resources and services (such as tourism returns and coastal protection) worth about US$375 billion each year. This estimate is highly conservative, as it does not account for important services, such as the continual production of sand for beaches around the world. Furthermore, estimates useful at the national level are available for only a few countries, all using different (and in many cases, incompatible) methods. The information generated by this study is one of the most important activities given the need to help managers and policy makers gain a better understanding of both use and non-use values that can be assigned to coral reef resources. The ICRAN project will develop guidelines and select the variables important for estimating the economic value of coral reefs, and encourage a standard for economic valuation. 

ICLARM will coordinate valuation activities. Using information from ReefBase, Reefs at Risk and other ICRAN partners, ICLARM will select initial, priority countries within each region for analysis. In each selected country, a range of government and non-government personnel will be contacted and involved in the estimation based on a combination of direct information, proxy variables, indicators and knowledge from previous experiences. 


A widely cited economic analysis for coral reefs was produced in 1996 for Indonesia.14 However, this work has not been replicated in many other coral reef countries of the world. Given the location of ICLARM in Asia, and the amount of information available for the South Asian Seas region, the first valuation will be done for this RSP. This will be followed by the Caribbean. Together with Regional Reefs at Risk analyses, the economic valuations from these two regional seas will help complete a broad, multidisciplinary understanding for several countries.. Subsequent RSP priorities will be Eastern Africa and the South Pacific. 


Methods, guidelines and key parameters for the economic valuation of coral reefs will be disseminated through an interim status report within 18 months after the Action Phase begins. A detailed report, with particular emphasis on getting the information to the countries to which they apply, will be produced for the East Asian Seas after 24 months. after the Action Phase begins, with recommendations to refine coral reef valuation. Detailed reports will be completed for the Caribbean after 36 months and for East Africa or the South Pacific by the end of the Action Phase. Information from the reports will also be incorporated in the global ICRAN summary atlas, in both print and electronic versions, and will be used in Component 3 for the preparation of relevant materials targeted to decision-makers. 

D. Coral Reef Fisheries and Mariculture Analysis (ICLARM) 

One of the significant values of coral reefs often cited is the fisheries production and protein provided to local communities. But research has shown that coral reefs are limited in the level of sustainable harvests that can be provided, especially if commercial fisheries are also involved. Furthermore, very little is known about the origins, sources and sinks of larval recruitment and genetic heritage that drives coral reef fishery populations. Very few countries keep reliable records of harvests from coral reefs, and current estimates are based on a limited number of studies from individual coral reefs. 

Fisheries data are a foundation of any reliable economic valuation for coral reefs because they are a significant component in determining use values (those values for which purchase prices can be documented). Improved knowledge of all components of coral reef fisheries is key to establishing harvest limits that can be sustained over time. Therefore, estimates of the numbers of coral reef fishers, employees of mariculture operations, market and handling personnel and related dependents, harvests, annual dispersal and recruitment patterns and the socioeconomic importance of fisheries is crucial in determining realistic, sustainable levels. 

Proper estimations of coral reef fisheries and mariculture variables need to be analyzed, highlighting the social and economic importance, and the environmental, social and economic implications of coral reef degradation to society. This analysis should be based on a combination of direct information, proxy variables, indicators and knowledge, and requires examination on a country, government and NGO basis. In addition, larval dispersal and recruitment investigations in key areas will strengthen understanding of where protection measures are needed to sustain key coral reef fisheries. 


The results of this work will serve as an important component to the valuation of coral reef resources and so the priority of tasks will be the same as for action item C. Data from this analysis will also directly benefit local communities by helping them to better understand the value and limitations to their resources. Research on the extent of genetic linkages among stocks will focus initially on completing work begun in the South China Sea (and external reference areas). Particular emphasis will be placed on obtaining data from the Spratly Islands to investigate whether this area provides a source of recruits for coral reef fisheries in surrounding countries. The work will be further strengthened by examining relationships for a larger number of coral reef fish species, including some of direct commercial importance. Therefore, this research will be conducted only in one region during the Action phase of ICRAN, with a view to expanding similar investigations to other regions as counter-part funding becomes available. 

Results of this series of investigations and analyses will be represented on base maps for the benefit of MPA and ICM managers, and to provide baseline information to the Regional Reefs at Risk analysis to determine potential vulnerability. Apart from integrating study results into the other assessments and immediate dissemination of initial results to ICRAN partners, the analysis will be disseminated as independent reports and as part of the ICRAN global atlas summary. 

E. Coral Reef Policy Analysis by Country (ICLARM)

Regardless of the level of improved information made available to national governments and local communities, the proper management of coral reefs is not possible unless a set of effective policies, laws, enforcement strategies, infrastructure and economic instruments are in place that favor co-management - governance that combines national and provincial efforts and resources with local management efforts. In most countries, the responsibility for coral reef governance is divided among several departments or ministries, making it difficult to fully understand the conditions concerning coral reef policy. At regional and global scales this means that estimates of coral reef status and the impacts of catastrophes, such as global bleaching, cannot be adjusted for the varying levels of protection afforded by different governments. 

This work is fundamental to countries both within and between RSPs. Policy analysis is crucial for determining gaps, weaknesses, and assisting countries not as developed as others in sharing models that are effective. For this assessment activity, a team approach will be developed to organize a proper estimation of the policy situation within each region, and conducted either concurrently with or closely related to the efforts for economic valuation and fisheries work. A range of government and non-government personnel will be contacted and involved in the assessment based on a combination of collected legislation, economic studies, indicators and knowledge. 

The assessment will take into account laws, by-laws, enforcement strategies, infrastructure and economic instruments that favor co-management at both national and provincial levels. The ICRI-CPC, through the Secretariat, can provide an important facilitating role by using its diplomatic leverage to encourage governments to expedite information transfer, and in helping to see this work to completion. 


Results will be reported and disseminated via public documents, as well as contribution to the ICRAN summary atlas, that will synthesize the diverse range of assessment data. 

F. Monitoring and Assessment of Coral Reefs (GCRMN) 

In conjunction with the global network of demonstration sites, ICRAN will provide on-the-job-training in basic coral reef monitoring and assessment techniques to support management decisions. The Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN) requires strengthening of its coordination to effectively monitor ICRAN demonstration sites for adaptive management. The GCRMN operates under the umbrella of the International Coral Reef Initiative, and has a baseline network of people monitoring coral reefs in most countries of the world, in association with Reef Check. The GCRMN operates from the Australian Institute of Marine Science with funds for central coordination shared between the US State Department, NOAA and Australia. The information generated by these two programs is now being compiled into the second “Status of Coral Reefs of the World” report based on national reports from virtually all countries with reefs. 

Using this baseline network, the GCRMN will expand monitoring capacity in and around the ICRAN demonstration sites so that people involved are directly familiar with the resources they are managing and are provided with effective data on the status of resources to improve management strategies. The monitoring data, particularly the assessments of fish populations, are essential if the ICRAN demonstration sites are to carry the message of effective local management. Therefore, it is essential that members of local communities participate in monitoring (normally using the more basic Reef Check methods). The GCRMN will provide advanced training in standard methods, databases to link with ReefBase and equipment for each demonstration site. The GCRMN will supervise data collection on the status of coral reefs, along with parallel socioeconomic assessments of key stakeholders. 


To be fully effective, the GCRMN needs to devolve coordination of the network out to the major regions of the world. Therefore the GCRMN proposes to place four regional GCRMN coordinators linked to the UNEP Regional Seas Programme offices for the Wider Caribbean, the Pacific, East Asian Seas and the Wider Indian Ocean (including South Asian and Middle East countries). These people will be directly responsible for coordinating the provision of training and the collation of data for regional reports and will play a key role in supporting other ICRAN activities by providing direct support to the UNEP officers responsible for coral reef activities. This support will include designing packages for the demonstration sites and conveying these throughout the region as information exchange tours. They will also support demonstration site managers in informing visitor groups to the sites. The data will contribute to the Regional Reefs at Risk analyses. Regional Coordinators will also be able to respond to coral reef crises by implementing urgent assessments of damage. 

As part of ICRAN, the GCRMN will expand its efforts to train people around the world in basic coral reef monitoring. The GCRMN will: 

- Support enhanced coral reef monitoring at selected demonstration sites in the wider Caribbean by providing advanced training in appropriate monitoring methods, supporting the development of regional databases, and providing an advisory service for problem resolution and report writing 

- Provide the Western Indian Ocean and Eastern African States with a network of people performing GCRMN and Reef Check monitoring of reefs, and the latest data on the status of the reefs for the policy and needs analysis 

- Feed data on the status of reefs in the East Asian Seas area into the process for producing the Regional Reefs at Risk analysis and provide new data on reef status not currently available in areas that are readily accessible to GCRMN monitoring teams. 


The GCRMN monitoring and assessment network will be instrumental in providing data to support other ICRAN assessment activities, such as the Regional Reefs at Risk and coral reef mapping. The GCRMN uses ReefBase as the final repository for data arising from local and national level monitoring. By June 2000, the GCRMN will have assisted with the production of National Status reports of Coral Reefs in all major countries and states,15 which will constitute the baseline for the ICRAN project to assess the effectiveness in reversing coral reef decline. 

12 Reefs at Risk - A Map Based Indicator of Threats to the World's Coral Reefs, WRI, 1998.
13 The Regional Seas Programmes for the middle east (that is, the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and Arabian Gulf region) are not currently selected as priority areas for ICRAN support, but regional exchange will be encouraged to link these regions to the Network. 
14 Cesar, Herman 1996. Economic Analysis of Indonesian Coral Reefs. The World Bank, Environment Department, Work in Progress Series. 86 pp. 
15 Wilkinson, C. (1998). Status of Coral Reefs of the World: 1998. Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townsville, p. 184.
16 The GCRMN is administered through UNEP and IOC/UNESCO with IUCN, the World Bank, ICLARM, AIMS and the ICRI Secretariat being the other members of the GCRMN Management Group. Regional activity funds (approximately $1.35 million p.a.) are provided by DFID, UK, Swedish Sida, the GEF and the World Bank, and the USA. 

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