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Threatened Great Barrier Reef worth over $42 billion, says Deloitte report

Bleaching damage on Australia's Great Barrier Reef.
AFP | Getty Images
Bleaching damage on Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

Australia's Great Barrier Reef is a household name worldwide, known as a hotspot for thousands of coral and marine species. But now, the iconic natural feature has been ascribed the monetary value of A$56 billion ($42.5 billion), according to a report released Monday by Deloitte Access Economics.

The report also calculates the reef as supporting 64,000 jobs in Australia in the financial year 2015-16, and contributing A$6.4 billion directly to the national economy in the same time frame.

The monetary value Deloitte links to the reef with contrasts with its precarious future. The Great Barrier Reef has repeatedly fallen victim to bleaching in recent years, a phenomenon in which increased sea temperatures – blamed by some on climate change – result in the coral which make up the reef emitting photosynthetic algae. When this occurs, the coral can "bleach," or turn white. If it does not recover from this process, it can die.

The number of jobs linked to the reef easily exceeds that of some of Australia's biggest corporations such as flag carrier airline Qantas, which supports 26,000. Meanwhile, the country's oil and gas industry sustains the livelihoods of 19,000 people according to Deloitte.

The Great Barrier Reef, encompassing an area equivalent to that of Japan, employs people in the tourism, fishing, recreational activity and scientific research industries.

Highlighting how integral it is, the report pointed out that the Great Barrier Reef's contribution to jobs and businesses was more than that of other industries considered "too big to fail."

Breaking down the A$56 billion figure, A$29 billion is due to tourism; A$24 billion is attributed to "non-use value"; and A$3 billion is linked to recreational activities.

According to Deloitte, quantifying the reef's worth reveals the extent to which it is "an Australian economic, social and iconic asset," which it cites as being worth "more than 12 Sydney Opera Houses."

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