Friday, January 13, 2012

Coral reefs in Philippines among world’s most endangered

MANILA, Philippines?The coral reefs of the Philippines are some of the most endangered in the world from overfishing, pollution and climate change, according to an international report on the state of world reefs.

The World Resources Institute (WRI) and several international environmental groups recently released a study, Reefs at Risk Revisited, showing that 75 percent of the world?s coral reefs are threatened by local pressures such as unsustainable fishing, coastal pollution and development.

Ocean acidification and rising sea temperatures also contribute to coral bleaching and death, the study said.

If left unchecked, more than 90 percent of reefs will be threatened by 2030 and nearly all reefs will be at risk by 2050, the report said.

The loss of reefs could be devastating for many countries. Coral reefs provide food and livelihood to about 850 million people. They also give shoreline protection and support industries like fisheries and tourism.

If certain at-risk coral reefs are not protected, several countries will be economically threatened, it warned.

It identified nations as being the most socially and economically vulnerable to coral reef degradation and loss, noting that reefs provide food, tourism and coastal protection to these countries.
The nine are: Haiti, Grenada, the Philippines, Comoros, Vanuatu, Tanzania, Kiribati, Fiji and Indonesia.

The coral reefs in these countries face serious threats, but the governments do not have the adaptive capacity to protect them, the report said.
These nations represent key priorities for concerted national and local efforts to reduce reef dependence and build adaptive capacity, alongside reducing immediate threats to reefs, the report said.

In the Philippines?which is in the so-called Coral Triangle region with the highest diversity of corals, fish, and other reef species anywhere in the world?the reefs are being threatened by unsustainable fishing and population stress, the study said.

It also noted that deforestation and the loss of mangroves have contributed to the decline of reefs in the country.

Massive bleaching
Last year, a group of Filipino scientists reported massive coral bleaching in Philippine waters because of global warming. According to the marine scientists and divers, the massive bleaching of coral reefs all over the country was caused by warmer-than-normal ocean water temperatures.

The WRI study said that coral reefs in Southeast Asia, one of the most diverse in the world and which makes up 28 percent of the global reefs, ?are the most threatened.

Overfishing is the greatest threat to coral reefs in the Southeast Asian region, it said.

Destructive fishing alone affects at least 60 percent of reefs in the region, the report said.

Unmitigated human development in the coasts of the Southeast Asian countries also denigrates the reefs.

Coastal development is variable, but dense populations around the mainland continental shores, the entire Philippine archipelago, and around Java and Sulawesi in Indonesia affect almost all reefs in those areas, the report said.

The Coral Triangle, recognized as the global epicenter of marine biodiversity, refers to a roughly triangular area of the tropical marine waters of Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, the Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste that contain at least 500 species of reef-building corals.

By Kristine L. Alave
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 05:34:00 02/26/2011
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