Save our reefs, scientists urge

ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
Science Alert 9 Jul 12;

With coral reefs around the world in rapid decline, it is imperative we make every effort to save the rest, say the world’s most top marine researchers, who are gathered this week in Australia for the 12th International Coral Reef Symposium.

In an unprecedented move, more than 2000 of the world’s top marine researchers released today in Cairns, Australia, their Consensus Statement on Climate Change and Coral Reefs.

It calls for a worldwide effort to overcome growing threats to coral ecosystems and to the livelihoods of millions of people who depend on them.

In particular it urges measures to head off the escalating damage caused by rising sea temperatures, ocean acidification, overfishing and pollution from the land. See:

Professor Terry Hughes, Convener of the Symposium and Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies says “When it comes to coral reefs, prevention is better than cure. If we look after the Great Barrier Reef better than we do now, it will continue to support a vibrant tourism industry into the future” he said.

“Unfortunately, in Queensland, the rush to get as much fossil fuel out of the ground as quickly as possible before the transition to alternative sources of energy occurs, has pushed environmental concerns far into the background.

“Australia needs to improve governance of the Great Barrier Reef, particularly coastal development and runoff, to avoid it being inscribed by UNESCO on the List of World Heritage Sites in Danger.

“While there has been much progress in establishing marine reserves around the coastline of Australia, marine parks do not prevent pollution from the land, or lessen the impact of shipping and port developments, or reduce the emissions of greenhouse gasses,” he says.

“There is a window of opportunity for the world to act on climate change – but it is closing rapidly,” he said.

Meantime, there are plenty of positive local actions that can also be taken, such as:

Rebuild fish stocks to restore key ecosystem functions
Reduce runoff and pollutants from the land
Reduce destruction of mangrove, seagrass and coral reef habitats
Protect key ecosystems by establishing marine protected areas
Rebuild populations of megafauna such as dugongs and turtles
Promote reef tourism and sustainable fishing rather than destructive industries
Use aquaculture, without increasing pollution and runoff, to reduce pressure on wild stocks.

Scientists urge action for coral reef protection
BBC News 9 Jul 12;

File photo: Corals and mangroves in Indonesia A report has deemed that the Coral Triangle is at risk

Scientists at a forum in Australia to discuss the future of coral reefs have called for immediate global action to save the world's reefs from decline.

Meeting at the 12th International Coral Reef Symposium in Cairns, scientists said pollution and climate change pose "major threats".

At least 85% of reefs in the Coral Triangle are also at risk, according to a recently released report.

The symposium, attended by thousands, happens once every four years.

At least 2,600 scientists endorsed a petition calling for international efforts to preserve the world's coral reefs.

They are calling on governments "to take action for the preservation of coral reefs for the benefit of present and future generations".

According to the petition, "land-based sources of pollution, sedimentation, overfishing and climate change are the major threats" to coral reefs.

"There is a window of opportunity for the world to act on climate change - but it is closing rapidly," said Prof Terry Hughes, symposium convener, in a statement.

Experts have said that even the most protected reefs, like Australia's Great Barrier Reef, have seen rapid decline over the years.

A report released by environmental think tank the World Resources Institute with the USAID-funded Coral Triangle Support Partnership (CTSP) also said that "threats to coral reefs in the Coral Triangle are much higher than the global average".

The triangle covers Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, The Solomon Islands and East Timor.

"More than 85% of reefs within the Coral Triangle Region are currently threatened by local stressors [such as overfishing, pollution, and coastal development], which is substantially higher than the global average of 60%," the report says.