Handout of Robertson exploring a portion of the artificial reef Spiegel Grove in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. (Photo : Reuters)
Although coral reefs in the Caribbean have traditionally been thought of as the most abundant in the ocean, a conservation organization has nullified those accounts and paints a grim future for the reefs in a recently released report.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) says these reefs are declining sharply. The IUCN report shows that live coral coverage is currently at just 8 percent, whereas it was measured at 50 percent in the 1970s. The current rates of decline show no signs of slowing, according to the report.
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"The major causes of coral decline are well-known and include overfishing, pollution, disease and bleaching caused by rising temperatures resulting from the burning of fossil fuels," Carl Gustaf Lundin, Director of the IUCN's Global Marine and Polar Programme said in a statement. "Looking forward, there's an urgent need to immediately and drastically reduce all human impacts if coral reefs and the vitally important fisheries that depend on them are to survive in the decades to come."
While the Caribbean coral reef cover is at just 8 percent, the IUCN says that cover on more remote coral reefs in areas like the Netherlands Antilles, Cayman Islands and elsewhere is "less marked," with up to 30 percent cover still surviving. This may be due to the fact that these areas are exposed to less human impact and natural disasters like hurricanes.
The IUCN says it is extending its study of the Caribbean coral reefs throughout all tropical seas, with plans to publish the results of these studies online as they become available. A complete global synthesis is expected to be done by 2016.
To help halt the reef decline, the IUCN is calling for a number of strictly enforced measures. Among them: limits on fishing through catch quotas, extension of Marine-Protected Areas, a halt to nutrient runoff from land and a global reduction on the use of fossil fuels. Additionally, the IUCN says it wants to make the data that it collects on the health of reefs more readily available to people around the world.
"We need simple universal metrics for the status and trends of coral reefs worldwide and a central repository for coral reef data that is freely and easily accessible to everyone," Jeremy Jackson, Science Director of the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network said in a statement.