Unless action is taken to protect Caribbean coral reefs, the majority will disappear within the next 20 years. The loss of coral reefs is mostly due to the steady decrease of grazers needed to protect the coral. An analysis conducted by 90 experts who compiled over 35,000 surveys at 100 different Caribbean locations shows that since 1970 the Caribbean region coral’s have decreased by more than 50 percent.
According to a study from the Global Reef Monitoring Network, it’s essential to improve protection of the coral reefs from pollution and overfishing, as well as restore key grazer populations in order to stop the disappearance of coral reefs and make them more resilient to climate change.
Multiple studies show the pollution and overfishing factors created the loss of key grazer fish such as sea urchins and parrotfish which is the main factor in the decrease of Caribbean coral reef. Grazer fish species are important to the marine ecosystem because they eat the algae that cover coral. In some Caribbean regions over fishing has led to the near extinction of the parrotfish populations.
The Status and Trends of Caribbean Coral Reefs report found that the healthiest coral reefs are in areas where there is a large population of grazing parotfish to protect the coral reef. The healthiest areas all have restricted or banned fishing that harms parrotfish. In comparison, areas where parrotfish aren’t protected, the coral reef has significantly decreased. Coral reefs that are also protected from coastal pollution, coastal development, and tourism are healthier and more resilient to climate change.
The Caribbean coral reefs extend across 38 countries, support over 43 billion people, and are vital to the Caribbean region’s economy. The coral reefs generate over $3 billion annually from creation of goods and services, tourism, and fisheries. The fate of the Caribbean coral reefs is still in our control and there are steps that can be taken to decrease the decline of the coral reef and help them recover, but we must address the problem immediately and begin to take the necessary actions.
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