Caribbean coral reefs are in sharp decline, with live coral coverage at just 8 percent, which is down from 50 percent in the 1970s, according to a report released by The International Union for Conservation of Nature. The report, released at an international conference in Korea states that many factors have contributed to the decline of corals in the Caribbean, including overfishing, pollution, disease and coral bleaching that is caused by rising temperatures.
The IUCN stressed in its report that the time is now to implement safeguards to ensure that these corals can rebound from their steady decline. Another factor that may have contributed to the decline in coral reefs was the collapse of sea urchin populations in the 1970s. Sea urchins help to keep algae and other vegetation in check on the reef, and without them, algae and other grasses compete with corals for resources.
“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.
The IUCN recommends that several actions be taken, chief among them is the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions that are warming the planet. Other recommendations include putting quotas on fishing, creating and extending marine protected areas, and stopping runoff of sewage and fertilizers into the ocean.