Regional economies face peril with declining coral reefs — report

Regional economies face peril with declining coral reefs — report

Monday, April 27, 2015

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WASHINGTON, DC, USA (CMC) — The United Nations and conservation groups have warned the Caribbean that their economies are in peril with the decline of coral reefs.

According to a report, years of overfishing, boating and environmental degradation are causing coral reefs in the Caribbean and around the world to disappear.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says erosion threatens not just fish and marine life that are supported by coral ecosystems, but a vast tourism economy.

"Coral degradation is a global problem," said Luis Solorzano, executive director at The Nature Conservancy, a non-profit organisation working in more than 35 countries and operating more than 100 marine conservation projects.

"Coral reefs help protect coastlines, which include coastal communities, hotels and other investments from storms," he added.

Researchers at Stanford University in California said the stony substance, secreted by millions of tiny animals minimises the force of seawaves, and helps protect an estimated 200 million people in islands and coastal states from storms and rising sea levels.

In a study last year, Stanford scientists estimated that up to 60 per cent of coral reefs around the world have been wiped out, adding that things could be getting worse in the Caribbean.

Recent studies show the region may have lost 80 per cent of its coral reefs.

Local economies, noted the NOAA, "receive billions of dollars from visitors to reefs through diving tours, recreational fishing trips, hotels, restaurants, and other businesses based near reef ecosystems".

In a report on the weekend, NBC News said reliance on tourism by Caribbean islands is hastening the demise of the ecosystem.

If tropical reefs and other ecosystems are destroyed, the oceans could lose US$1 trillion in economic value "by the end of the century", according to a study published by Scientific American last October.

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