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Poverty and Reefs

1.4 Numbers of people dependent on reefs

With such a diverse range of coral reef stakeholders, it is not surprising that estimates of the number of people dependent on reefs vary widely, according to the definition of reef dependence or reef stakeholder applied. Moberg and Folke (1999) stated that in over 100 countries with coral reefs along their coastlines, at least tens of millions of people are likely to depend on coral reefs for part of their livelihood or for part of their protein intake. According to the International Coral Reef Action Network (ICRAN), ‘An estimated one billion people currently depend on fish for food, income and livelihood, at least 85% of whom rely principally on fish as their major source of protein’ (ICRAN, 2002). The International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) extends this figure further by saying that fish catches from shallow coastal waters dominated by coral reefs, in Asia alone, are estimated to support 1 billion people (ICRI, 2002b).

In spite of these impressive figures for reef dependence, the situation remains poorly understood except in localised situations. One of the most data-rich areas of reef dependence is that of small-scale fishers. According to an IFAD study smallscale fishers are identified as a functionally vulnerable group amongst the rural poor (Jazairy et al., 1992). For many smallscale fishers the reef represents an important resource, whose diversity and physical complexity favours low investment and low technology small-scale production. From an analysis of the numbers involved in this stakeholder group it is clear that throughout the world many millions of people are dependent on coral reef fisheries employment alone (Box 2). However, it will become clear from future sections that benefits from fisheries are only part of the complex benefit flows that reefs produce.
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