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Colombia’s island fishermen dive into battle to protect coral reefs

A native fisherman of Colombia

For nearly three decades, Javier Barker has fished in the Caribbean Sea surrounding the Colombian island of San Andres – but until recently he knew little about the importance of coral reefs that fish depend on to survive. “I used to think corals were just hard stones. I didn’t know that corals are living creatures,” said 40-year-old Barker, who began line fishing as a teenager with his family.

“I now know corals are cradles for fish, and healthier corals equals more fish so corals are important for everyone,” he said.

Worldwide, coral reefs from the Caribbean to the Pacific Ocean have come under growing stress as a result of rising ocean temperatures caused by climate change and other human-induced pressures including overfishing, pollution and tourism...

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Colombia’s improbable reef offers hope for coral worldwide

The Varadero reef could offer clues for the survival of other reefs in contaminated areas

Just off the shore of the city of Cartagena, home of one of Colombia’s biggest ports, lies a coral reef that campaigners are furiously battling to protect. The Varadero reef, located in Cartagena Bay, has survived against the odds to thrive in a highly polluted environment. The Caribbean Sea bay, a major waterway for shipping vessels and cruise ships, is contaminated by industrial and sewage waste.

Shipping businesses are planning to expand the canal’s Bocachica Channel and build another passageway straight through the reef, meaning a quarter of it will be destroyed and the remainder threatened.

According to marine biologists, the reef should not be alive, and yet it has flourished, providing a home to a large number of coral, fish and urchin species.

‘Improbable and imperilled’

A report,...

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