The Economic Importance of Coral Reefs in Mauritius


Helge Peter VOGT


Shoals of Capricorn Programme, Royal Geographical Society (with IBG),

1 Kensington Gore, London SW7 2AR, T./Fax: 0044 20 75873556,





Coral reefs are a valuable natural resource and an important source of revenue in particular for small island nations. In Mauritius, the reefs and the extensive lagoons of the various islands provide fishing grounds which form the livelihood of many fishermen. Tourists enjoy the beauty of the reefs and international tourism has become a major part of the country’s economy. This article summarises the main economic values of coral reefs in Mauritius, and quantifies the benefits in monetary terms wherever possible. The major reef fishing grounds surround the islands of Mauritius (300 km2), Rodrigues (240 km2), Cargados Carajos (190 km2), Agalega and smaller islands. In 1997, about 2,400 artisanal fishermen from the main island of Mauritius contributed 1,246 t or about 10 % of the total fish catches in Mauritius. The financial value of these catches was estimated at US$ 4.5 million. Bad weather and closed season allowances worth a total of US$ 870,000 provided an additional source of income to registered fishermen. The overall economic importance of reef fishery on the main island is low if compared to other sectors of the economy such as tourism or sugar cane production. However, in Rodrigues reef fishery constitutes a major part of the economy of the island and provides the livelihood of about 2,000 registered fishermen and their families which accounts for roughly one third of the islands population. In Mauritius, international tourism has developed into a major economic force. In 1999, about 580,000 tourists arrived in Mauritius generating US$ 643 million as gross receipts. Every year, approximately 40,000 tourists and Mauritians enjoy Scuba diving in the reefs which is estimated to earn Scuba dive tour operators about US$ 4 million/year. The total economic value of reef tourism is considerably higher if costs for travel, accommodation, food as well as other reef activities are included in the overall assessment.

This study highlights the economic importance of coral reefs in Mauritius and presents a detailed analysis of the key elements of reef use including their monetary valuations.