Poverty rates give the proportion of the coastal population without the economic means to acquire basic goods and services.for example, a basic “food basket” or housing, water and sanitation, and education and health services.
Coastal poverty rates provide a snapshot of human well-being while also hinting at pressure on local natural resources. Poverty rates indicate whether the local economy, including marine-based activities (SW5), provides coastal residents with a reasonable standard of living. The local standard of living is, in turn, often dependent on local ecosystem health.
In general, if marine-based economic activities are profitable and there is relatively equitable access to and distribution of resources, then poverty-line levels should be lower among coastal communities dependent on the marine environment for livelihood, so long as the resources are maintained.
For example, reef degradation would likely result in a reduction of tourism (D2) and fisheries-related income derived from the reef (SW5), leading to higher local poverty rates. Lower poverty rates might be expected in areas with sustainable reef management practices. Similarly, if commercially valuable species such as lobster (D11) or conch (D10) become scarce, then poverty levels may be expected to increase in the absence of other economic alternatives
We recommend that coastal poverty rates be routinely tracked. We also recommend that the relationship between local poverty rates and marine resource viability and availability be more fully characterized. At present, no single poverty indicator is directly comparable across all four countries.2
A promising Benchmark sign of economic health would be a 25% reduction of the poverty rate in each coastal municipality. As of approximately the turn of the century:3
- Poverty rates in coastal municipalities tended to be slightly lower than national averages.
- Coastal areas with greater tourism development (for example, Cancun in Mexico and Roatan in Honduras) displayed lower poverty rates than did areas with lower tourism levels.
- Coastal areas with particularly high poverty rates (for example, Filipe Carrillo Puerto in Mexico and the Gracias a Dios department in Honduras) tended be characterized by relatively large indigenous/ethnic populations and a predominance of small-scale agriculture with little or no tourism or other economic alternatives.