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Hawaiʻi receives first reef insurance policy in the U.S.

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Wise Hok Wai Lum
/
Wikimedia Commons

Hawaiʻi's reefs will be insured against tropical storm and hurricane damage starting next hurricane season.

The Nature Conservancy purchased the first reef insurance policy in the U.S. on Monday. The organization chose the insurance company Munich Re to provide the coverage.

Mexico was the first country to insure their coral reefs at Quintana Roo in 2019. Reefs spanning southern Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras have also been insured.

But unlike other policies, Hawaiʻi’s includes tropical storms.

Chana Makaleʻa Dudoit Ane is the community-based program manager for the Nature Conservancy Hawaiʻi and Palmyra.

She said that in areas such as Mexico and La Mar, parametric insurance solely covered category one through five hurricanes, which was around 57 miles per hour.

"And so if the hurricane came in, dissipated as it hits the Big Island and Maunakea, as we’ve seen previously, those storms still created winds and waves that have damaged reefs," Ane said.

"As it’s getting downgraded to a tropical storm, the policy we developed, if it continues at those triggers and it's close enough to shore — it’ll trigger that payout."

The policy could pay up to $2 million, according to Ane. The money will go toward reef repair and restoration efforts.

Casey Harlow is an HPR reporter and occasionally fills in as local host of Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Contact him at charlow@hawaiipublicradio.org or on Twitter (@CaseyHarlow).
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