Caribbean coral reefs could vanish over the next 20 years: report
By Nina Larson
July 3, 2014, 12:05 am TWN
GENEVA--Caribbean coral reefs could disappear within 20 years as overfishing has all but wiped out the fish that feast on coral-smothering algae, the U.N. and an international conservation watchdog warned Wednesday.
Just a sixth of the original coral cover exists today in the region, which is home to nine percent of the world's coral reefs, according to study by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the U.N.'s environment agency.
The report warned that "Caribbean coral reefs have suffered massive losses of corals since the early 1980s due to a wide range of human impacts" such as overfishing, pollution and global warming.
In the past 40 years alone, 50 Caribbean reefs have been wiped out, the study showed, adding that "most Caribbean coral reefs may disappear in the next 20 years."
"The rate at which Caribbean corals have been declining is truly alarming," said Carl Gustaf Lundin, who heads the IUCN's Global Marine and Polar Programme.
Climate change, which makes oceans more acidic and causes coral bleaching, has long been thought to be the main culprit behind the decline of coral reefs — considered among the most diverse ecosystems on the planet.
But the study found the loss of parrotfish and sea urchin — the area's main "grazers" — was by far the biggest driver of coral decline.
Protect the Grazers