The first International Year of the Reef was declared in 1997 as an alert broadcast to the world, to focus our attention on the increasing threats to the earth’s coral reef ecosystems. Ten years later the ICRI has declared 2018 to be the Third International Year of the Reef and is sponsoring a year-long campaign of events and initiatives to promote coral reef conservation.
We wish that we could report on improvements in the health of the world’s coral reefs over the last decade, unfortunately the opposite is the case. As environmental and climatic conditions worsen so does the health and sustainability of our coral reefs. (photo – Burt Jones, Maureen Shimlock)
This is nowhere more apparent than on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. One of the world’s incomparable, natural wonders, it stretches over 2,300 kilometers (1,400 mi), along Australia’s eastern coast. Composed of nearly 3,000 individual reefs and 900 islands, the Great Barrier reef stretches over 344,000 square kilometers (133,000 sq mi) of the Coral Sea.
Two consecutive years 2016 and 2017 of unprecedented ocean temperatures caused by global warming has had a devastating impact on the reef resulting in massive coral bleaching across the northern two thirds of the reef. (photo – Lock the Gate Alliance)
In our end-of-the-year: Top Ocean Stories of 2017: Part 5, Can We Save Coral Reefs? We reported on the dire conditions not only on the Great Barrier Reef but on coral reefs throughout the coral triangle and around the world.
We have also reported on the other serious threats that imperil our coral ecosystems such as the plastic debris that litters our beaches, strangles marine life and suffocates coral reefs.
The loss of mangrove forests and seagrass is due to uncontrolled coastal development, plus agricultural runoff, mining and damage caused by maritime traffic.
We have also reported on the heroic efforts to save coral reefs, by creating marine protected areas and by growing and replanting corals on damaged and destroyed reefs. Much research is ongoing to find and replicate coral species that are more tolerant of climate related “bleaching events”.
The hope remains that even with all the stress on our coral reefs that they will be resilient and with our help they will survive, because humanity cannot survive without them. (photo – Coral Restoration Foundation)
So in 2018 the International Year of the Reef, let’s celebrate the beauty of our world’s marine treasures and triple our efforts to conserve this irreplaceable asset.
By Robert Frerck, Blue Ocean Network
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