The new report suggest coral reefs could become extinct (Dreamstime)

Caribbean coral reef 'could become extinct'

10th September 2012

The Caribbean's coral reefs are 'under serious threat'; a recent study has reported the percentage of live coral is currently less than 10%

A report compiled by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) co-ordinated by the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network has warned that the state of the Caribbean's coral reefs is 'critical'.

Conservationists have warned that with so little growth of live coral, the reefs are in danger of utter devastation unless urgent action is taken. The decline has been rapid; a newly completed survey shows just 8% coral cover, compared to more than 50% in the 1970s. The drastic loss is being blamed on over-exploitation from the fishing and tourism industries, pollution and climate change.

Carl Gustaf Lundin, director of the global marine and polar programme at the IUCN, which published the research, said: "The major causes of coral decline are well known […]. Looking forward, there is an urgent need to immediately and drastically reduce all human impacts [if coral reefs] are to survive in the decades to come."

The situation in the Netherlands Antilles, Cayman Islands and a few other more remote islands is slightly less severe, with up to 30% coverage of live coral still remaining. These reefs are in areas less exposed to human impact and natural disasters.

Last year scientists from the World Resources Institute predicted that by 2050 virtually all of the world's coral reefs would be in danger. It was estimated that 75% of the Caribbean's coral reefs were in danger, along with 95% of those in South-East Asia.

Diving and snorkelling around coral reefs are popular adventure travel activities, and provide valuable income to coastal communities.

To stay safe and help protect reefs for the future:

1. Remember that coral is alive; don't step on or touch it and avoid stirring up sediment nearby.

2. Don't disturb or harass marine life.

3. Don't remove marine life from its natural habitat or shells, and don't buy souvenirs made from coral.

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