Caribbean Coral Reefs "On the Verge of Collapse"

Update: Depressed by this news. Check out: “A Transformation From Environmental Grief to Environmental Action,” which will be on Google+ on Wednesday, 3/12/2004 at 11:00 am PST. The gist: environmental news can be depressing. How do you maintain your resolve to fight for a better environmental future?

A new report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) states that the Caribbean coral reef system is on the verge of collapse, “with less than 10% of the reef area showing live coral cover.”

“With so little growth left, the reefs are in danger of utter devastation unless urgent action is taken,” the report added.

The new report is the most recent of several reports coming from marine and other conservation scientists which have predicted the imminent demise of the global coral reef system due to pollution, fertilizer run-off, over-fishing, and myriad consequences to sea health resulting from fossil-fuel-induced climate change.

Last year, the World Resources Institute estimated that 75% of the Caribbean’s coral reefs were in danger, along with 95% of those in Southeast Asia. They predicted that “by 2050 virtually all of the world’s coral reefs would be in danger.”

Carl Gustaf Lundin, director of the global marine and polar programme at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), said: “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. Looking forward, there is an urgent need to immediately and drastically reduce all human impacts [in the area] if coral reefs and the vitally important fisheries that depend on them are to survive in the decades to come.”

The report – compiled by 36 scientists from 18 countries – was the work of the IUCN-coordinated Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network.

Dr. Peter Sale, a leading United Nations ecologist, previously wrote that: “Coral reefs are likely to become the first ecosystem completely destroyed by humans.” His 2011 book, Our Dying Planet, explains:

“It is not pollution, or overfishing, or mass bleaching, or climate change, or any of the other factors I have mentioned that is killing our coral reefs. It is all of these factors together. Or, to put it more plainly, the cause of the destruction of coral reefs is us.”

David Newman, an oceans expert with the Natural Resources Defense Council, described three general areas of action necessary to take to avoid the complete collapse of the global coral reef system:

  1. “comprehensive climate change solutions, including renewable energy policies that reduce the amount of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere”
  2. “strict, science-based catch limits to prevent overfishing”
  3. stop eating unsustainably caught seafood, as described here.


Go from environmental grief to enthused action. Join EdenKeeper this week for a webinar with Rabbi Katy Allen…get over your “earth grief” and turn on your eco-optimism! 

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  1. Guardian
  2. WRI
  3. NRDC
  4. NWF

Image: coral reef via Shutterstock

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