Years of over-fishing, boating and environmental degradation are causing coral reefs in the Caribbean—and around the world—to disappear. The erosion threatens not just fish and marine life that are supported by coral ecosystems, but a vast tourism economy that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says translates into a nearly $30 billion boost to the global economy.
The United Nations and conservation groups have sounded the alarm about the ecosystem’s failure and its ripple effects, which include the mass extinction of thousands of species of animals.
“Coral degradation is a global problem,” said Luis Solorzano, executive director at The Nature Conservancy, a nonprofit organization working in more than 35 countries and operating more than 100 marine conservation projects.
Up to 60% of Coral Reefs wiped out
In a study last year, Stanford scientists estimated that up to 60 percent of coral reefs around the world have been wiped out since the Industrial Revolution. There are indications that things could be getting worse in the Caribbean — recent studies show the region may have lost 80 percent of its coral reefs.
Local economies, noted NOAA, “receive billions of dollars from visitors to reefs through diving tours, recreational fishing trips, hotels, restaurants, and other businesses based near reef ecosystems.”
Triple the Marine Habitats by 2020
The Nature Conservancy is helping to lead an initiative to triple the coverage of marine habitats by 2020 through cooperation with nearly a dozen governments in the Caribbean. Other organizations, like the Nature Foundation St. Maarten on the island of St. Martin, have started coral nurseries with the hope to return them to their natural habitat.
Coral Reefs are resilient
“We are optimistic that corals are resilient and that we can help bring them back in the Caribbean and globally,” said Solorzano, who thinks supporting reef-friendly businesses and practicing responsible diving, snorkeling and boating are a few things consumers can do to help.
Read the full article by David Montalvo here.
Photo: Shallow reef waters were once dominated by extensive thickets of the Caribbean Elkhorn Coral, Acropora palmata, a species that is now threatened by climate change. Courtesy Phys.org