As many of you know, the Earth's coral reefs have been showing serious signs of damage from pollution, temperature change, acidification, and destructive fishing techniques. It seems no coral reef on the planet has been immune from some level of impact.
The South Pacific contains some of the richest marine environments, particularly an area known as the "Coral Triangle" that includes Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and Timor Leste. While the Coral Triangle only represents 1% of the earth's surface, it includes 30% of the world's reefs, 76% of the reef building coral species, and 30% of the coral reef fish species.
And according to The Coral Triangle and Climate Change: Ecosystems, People and Societies at Risk, a report from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the University of Queensland, Australia, the Coral Triangle is gravely at risk - with major consequences not only for the marine environment but for the people who live and depend on the natural resources that benefit from the reef ecosystem.
This is an extensive and thorough report (229 pages) and I have only started to get into it. It's actually a compilation and analysis of over 300 published scientific studies involving biology, economics and fisheries science, so the conclusions are pretty solid. It basically puts forward two scenarios: one is the bleaker scenario, where nothing is adequately done and the coral reefs of the Coral Triangle are expected to disappear by the end of the century. This would bring about a major collapse of the regional coastal environment's ability to feed the population. Up to 100 million people would suffer loss of livelihoods, increased poverty, loss of food security, and there would be a major migration of people away from the coast, either moving into tighter, more over-populated communities inland or migrating to neighboring countries like Australia or New Zealand, further taxing the resources of those countries. In all, a pretty dire scenario of direct impacts on mankind if we choose to ignore the fate of this vital component of a healthy marine ecosystem.
The other scenario, however, is a more promising one, avoiding the worst-case scenario, if governments and commerce can wake up to the seriousness of the issue and respond by controlling CO2 emissions, provide better management of fisheries, and control pollution and declining coastal water quality. There would still be a level of coral loss, a rise in sea level, and increased storm and drought activity - but if we act now, it can be brought under manageable levels and even improve over time.
So, there's still time, but the clock is ticking and so action must be taken now rather than later. Click here to download the entire report.
On the other side of globe, deep water corals along the southeast coast of the U.S., from North Carolina to Florida, are at risk from destructive fishing techniques. Commercial deep-water fishing techniques include longlines and trawls the rake across the bottom, scraping up everything in its path - including delicate corals. And this isn't a gentle little rub; these nets can lift 18-ton rocks and pieces of reef right off the bottom. (Watch these techniques at work and you'll think twice about ordering that shrimp cocktail.)
Oceana is initiating a campaign to garner support for a proposed regulation by NOAA to protect as much as 23,000 square miles of deep coral reef area. Click here to learn more about what you can do.