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Caribbean Coral Reefs Have Declined By Up To 80%…U.S Extends Further Assistance To Protection

Caribbean Coral Reefs Have Declined By Up To 80%

July 18, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

WASHINGTON (AP) - In a study of Caribbean reefs, British researchers found that coral has declined by about 80% in some areas, a loss that may take many decades to recuperate.

The study examined the health of the coral reefs across the whole Caribbean basin and found that at some sites the coverage of coral has dropped from 50% to only about 10% in just three decades.

Coral loss was the highest in the 1980s, the researchers found. They said the rate of coral decline has slowed, but continues at a significant pace.

The study appears on Sciencexpress, the Internet version of the journal Science. The study was conducted by researchers at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, Britain.

A total 263 sites in the Caribbean basin were included in the survey. The sites ranged from reefs along the South American coast, north to Florida and Jamaica, and west as far as the Gulf of Mexico near the coast of Texas.

"Our analysis shows a clear and dramatic decline in absolute coral cover, with the majority of study sites reporting a decrease..." the researchers reported.

Studies of ancient coral deposits, the authors said, suggest that the recent loss of coral cover "is unprecedented within the past few millennia."

The researchers said there is no evidence that can convincingly attribute the coral loss to climate change from global warming or atmospheric carbon dioxide. Instead, they suggested coral is being killed by disease, storms, overfishing, pollution and habitat destruction.

"Given current predictions of increased human activity in the Caribbean ... the situation for Caribbean coral reefs does not look likely to improve in either the short or the long term," the researchers reported.

The co-authors of the study are Toby A. Gardner, Isabelle M. Cootie, Jennifer A. Gill, Alsatian Grant, and Andrew R. Watkinson, all of the University of East Anglia.

U.S Extends Further Assistance To Protection Of Coral Reefs

October 6, 2003
Copyright © 2003
Asia Pulse PTE Ltd. All rights reserved. 

PACNEWS, the Pacific News Agency Service

SAIPAN (Pacnews) - Lack of financial and technical resources and global warming are two of the many issues faced by coastal areas seeking greater protection of their coral reefs.

But federal agencies vowed during the 10th U.S. Coral Reef Task Force Meeting in the Northern Marianas to further extend assistance to U.S. jurisdictions to implement their local action strategies.

Over 100 individuals from the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas (CNMI), Guam, American Samoa, Palau, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Florida and other Pacific and U.S. affiliated areas participated in the meeting held at the Hyatt Regency Saipan.

Despite natural and man-made challenges, the CNMI, Palau, American Samoa, Guam and other U.S. coastal areas reported progress in protecting their coral reefs.

They cited their local governments' initiatives, funds from federal agencies, and increased collaboration among local, regional and federal agencies like the U.S. Department of the Interior, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Palau President Tommy E. Remengesau mentioned last month's passage of a law in his country-prohibiting shark finning, as well as a ban on commercial fishing within 50 miles of Palau's islands.

A pending bill also aims to greatly expand Palau's marine protected areas, he said.

CNMI Gov. Juan N. Babauta said the U.S. Coral Reef Initiative funding resulted in his country's development of coral reef protection strategies, completion of the first Mariana Archipelago Reef Assessment and Monitoring Programme research cruise, installations of moorings to prevent recreational damage and enhanced marine enforcement.

American Samoa Gov. Togiola T. Tulafono said they recently established the only sanctuary in U.S. waters dedicated specifically to the protection of sea turtles and marine mammals.

Tulafono said he sees a need to assemble a task force on global warming and climate change because of their serious implications to American Samoa's way of living in the future.

"We are already seeing increased occurrences of coral bleaching and death due to warming of our near shore waters. This occurred in both 2002 and 2003, and we are now witnessing an increase in coral diseases on our reefs as well," he said. "Who would have thought that American Samoa would have to worry about global warming and unhealthy coral reefs? But we do now."

Dr. Rusty Brainard, head of the Mariana Archipelago Reef Assessment and Monitoring Programme research cruise 2003, noted mild coral bleaching in the CNMI, especially in its Northern Islands.

Remengesau, in his presentation, said despite Palau's conservation tradition, beauty and remoteness, it has not been able to avoid the impact of global climate change.

He cited the 1998 coral-bleaching event, which damaged Palau's reefs, as well as ship groundings, crown of thorns infestations, sedimentation from development and resource overexploitation.

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