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THE CARIBBEAN
Call to protect coral reefs
9/24/2012
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Climate change, pollution and aggressive fishing practices threaten coral reef ecosystems.

Coral reefs are in danger due to overfishing, warming waters and pollution, according to a warning issued Sept. 7 by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, or IUCN.

“Average live coral cover on Caribbean reefs has declined to just 8 percent of the reef today, compared with more than 50 percent in the 1970s”, the Switzerland-based organization noted in a report on the state of coral reefs during the 5th World Conservation Congress, held in South Korea from Sept. 6-15.

Carl Gustaf Lundin, director of IUCN’s Global Marine and Polar Program, said that 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”.

He added that “looking forward, there is 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”.

Among the solutions the IUCN proposed to Caribbean governments were: limiting fishing by implementing catch-quotas, expanding protected marine areas, curbing the runoff of nutrients from the soil, and reducing the world’s dependence on fossil fuels.

Scientific research published in mid-September by the international journal Nature said that if global temperature increases more than 2°C by 2030, 70 percent of coral reefs will disappear. Global temperatures have risen by 0.8°C since preindustrial times, which has caused extreme weather events and the loss of glaciers.

Coral reefs are also threatened by off-shore oil drilling. In Colombia, the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development plans to establish by the end of September the first deep sea coral reef national park in the Colombian Caribbean. But a coral formation located 100 meters (328 feet) deep near the Rosario Islands off Cartagena is part of a large oil block awarded in 2006 to the consortium of state oil company Ecopetrol and Australia’s BHP Billiton, for which “there is the expectation of hydrocarbon extraction”, according to statements made to the press by Eduardo Junguito, head of the Office of Environment and Social Affairs in Colombia’s Ministry of Mines and Energy.
—Latinamerica Press.


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