Caribbean coral reefs: “time is running out” to save them, says IUCN report

Coral reefs in the Caribbean are dying off, according to a new report from environmentalists.


“Time is running out” to save the Caribbean’s coral reefs from dying off, the International Union for Conservation of Nature warned in a report released at its annual conference today. The IUCN report said, on average, only 8 percent of the reefs’ surface area is live coral, down from 50 percent in the 1970s, Fox News reported.

Reefs in more populated areas have declined the most, the report said, according to NBC News. "Corals declined precipitously on the Jamaican north coast in the 1980s,” the report noted, and “total coral cover in the Florida Keys, the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico "has progressively declined from 25 to 35 percent in the 1970s to less than 15 percent today.”

Meanwhile, the report said, in Curacao and Bonaire, live coral cover is hanging on at about 25 to 30 percent, NBC News reported.

The IUCN said overfishing, pollution, disease and bleaching caused by rising global temperatures are behind the coral’s demise, according to Fox News.

"Our preliminary analysis suggests that the state of Caribbean reefs continues to worsen, primarily due to ocean warming," John Bruno, a University of North Carolina marine biologist who contributed data to the report, told NBC News. "To reverse this dire trend, job one is to halt the increase of greenhouse gas emissions."

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The IUCN called on countries with coral reefs to limit fishing, create or expand marine protected areas and take steps to prevent pollutants like sewage and fertilizer runoff from reaching the sea, NBC News reported.

“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,” Carl Gustaf Lundin, Director of IUCN’s Global Marine and Polar Programme, said in a press release, according to Fox News.

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