Reefs at risk


Reefs at risk
Big threat: Small-scale fishing by local
communities will not deplete the sea but not the
large fishing fleets which ply the world's oceans
in search of commercially valuable catch such
as sharks and tunas. - RebeccaWeeks
Reefs at risk
The world's coral epicentre is in danger.
EEFS all around the world are in trouble - but more so those in the region
known as the Coral Triangle, which
encompasses reefs in South-East Asia and the
Pacific and is considered the centre of coral
diversity in the world.
A report shows that over 85%of reefs in the
six countries that make up the Coral Triangle
- Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the
Philippines, Solomon Islands, and Timor teste
- are directly threatened by local human
activities, substantially more than the global
average of 60%.
The document Reefs At Risk Revisited In
The Coral Triangle, released recently at the
International Coral Reef Symposium in Cairns,
Australia, points to these threats: over-fishing, destructive fishing methods, pollution
from the land, and coastal development. The
impact of these threats is worsened by coral
bleaching, which is triggered by rising ocean
The Coral Triangle contains nearly 30%of
the world's coral reefs and hosts 76%of all
known coral species and over 3,000 species
of fish, which is twice the number found
anywhere else in the world. More than 130
million people living in the region rely on reef
ecosystems for food, employment, and revenue from tourism.
Despite its immense biodiversity and economic importance, only 16%of the region's
coral reefs are protected as marine reserves
- which is considerably lower than the global
average of 28%- and only 1%of this is effectively managed.
The scene is especially dismal in Malaysia.
It might have 93 marine protected areas but
these cover only 7%of its reefs. And only five
of these reserves (encompassing just 1%of
the country's reefs) are rated as effective at
reducing fishing pressure. Over 90%of the
country's reefs are found in the coasts of
Sabah. About 540 species of hard corals have
been identified in the country so far, as well
as 925 species of fish.
The report states that nearly all reefs in
Malaysia are threatened by local human
activities, with more than 40%under high
and very high threat. Over-fishing is the most
widespread threat, affecting about 97%of
reefs in Malaysia. Destructive fishing, such
as blast and cyanide fishing, threatens 85%of
Malaysia's reefs, particularly. those in Sabah
and Sarawak.
Watershed-based pollution (such as runl
from coastal development and sedimentladen outflows from rivers) affects 30%of t
reefs, especially those off Peninsular Malay,
Reefs are also suffering from marine polluti
and coastal development.
The Philippines is the most vulnerable to
reef degradation because of its highly threa
ened reefs, high economic dependence on
reefs, and low capacity to adapt to the loss
goods and services provided by reefs.
Among the recommendations offered in
the report for protecting reefs in the Coral
Triangle, the most urgent is to reduce local
pressures from over-fishing, destructive fis
ing, damaging coastal development, and pc
luting runoffs from land.
The report authors say healthy reefs will
be more likely to survive the negative effec
'of climate change, such as coral bleaching (
reduced coral growth rates due to increasel
ocean acidity. Tackling the local threats firs
will buy time for the reefs until the global
community can reduce greenhouse gas em:
"Across the Coral Triangle region, coastal
communities depend on coral reefs for foo(
livelihood and protection from waves durir
storms, but the threats to reefs in this regie
are incredibly high," says Lauretta Burke,
senior associate at World Resources Institu
(WRI) and a lead author of the report.
"Reefs are resflient. They can recover fron
coral bleaching and other impacts - particu
larly if other threats are low. The benefits rE
provide are at risk, which is why concerted
action to mitigate threats to reefs across thE
Coral Triangle region is so important."
The report was developed by the USbased WRI in collaboration with USAIDCor
Triangle Support Partnership, a consortium
ofWWF, The Nature Conservancy and
Conservation International, that is assisting
the six Coral Triangle governments in imple
menting their regional and national Coral
Triangle Initiative plans of action.
Founded by the six countries in 2009, the
Coral Triangle Initiative intends to improve
fisheries management in the region, build a
network of marine protected areas, help thl
local people adapt to climate change, and
protect endangered marine species. - Tan