NGOs call for urgent action to save coral reefs

Three international bodies have called for an urgent halt to destruction of coral reefs, which are facing serious threats due to over-fishing, unchecked tourism, construction on seabed and now climate change.

World Wildlife Fund, The Nature Conservancy and Conservation International have urged governments, businesses, scientists and individuals across the world “to vastly increase actions to protect coral reefs”.

Seventeen countries and 30 organisations formally launched the International Year of the Reef in Washington Thursday under the aegis of the International Coral Reef Initiative, a global campaign to raise awareness about the value and importance of coral reefs and to motivate action to protect them.

In 2003, the World Parks Congress urged that at least 20-30 percent of each marine habitat should be protected by 2012. At current levels of effort, this goal will not be achieved for coral reefs, the three NGOs said in a statement.

The three groups urged that the area of coral reefs under protection be increased globally from the current level of 15 percent to 30 percent; that protected areas be carefully designed as systems that are able to resist or recover rapidly from the multiple stresses they face; that within these protected area systems there be significant areas where human uses are very limited so that already stressed marine species can recover.

They also wanted that governments and civil society should work together to achieve the effective management of all coral reef protected areas.

The groups said that unless these actions were taken, there was little likelihood that the world’s coral systems will be there to sustain and protect future generations.

Lynne Hale, director of the global marine team of The Nature Conservancy, said: “Coral reef conservation for many developing countries is about more than aesthetics. For the more than one billion people living in coastal communities across the tropics, healthy reefs mean food and a way to earn a living.”