Coral reefs are facing extinction, Pt. 1
In this first of four posts, I will explore the dismal situation of coral reefs and their lack of official protection from trade, plus the incredible importance of these species for the survival of marine life and, in turn, human life. In the second part of this series, I will look at climate change and unknown causes jeopardizing the existence of coral reefs across the world’s oceans. In the third part of the series, I will explore coral reefs’ overexploitation,and in the fourth, unknown causes of coral mortality.
Coral reefs are facing increasing danger due to various factors, ranging from climate change and harvesting to different types of pollution, tourism, and outbreaks of disease, to fishing, overexploitation, infestation by pestilent species and even unknown causes.
Exacerbating these problems is a lack of legal protection for coral reefs by international official organizations.
Coral reefs suffer from a massive lack of protection
The world’s largest international ocean conservation organization, Oceana, recently released a statement chastising the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) for refusing to grant trade protection to 31 threatened species of red and pink coral. The convention voted to exclude these corals from its Appendix II listing during CITES’ two-week-long March meeting in Doha, Qatar, where it discussed the state of myriad species and ecosystems in dire straits.
“An Appendix II listing would require the use of export permits to ensure that the species were caught by a legal and sustainably managed fishery,” said Oceana.
These 31 species of coral from the western Pacific Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea are being increasingly harvested for their use in jewelry, souvenirs, and even homeopathic products, according to Oceana, a phenomenon is leading to the extinction of coral reefs. This issue alone (which I will look at in the third part of this series of posts), many insist, is enough to warrant the species’ listing under Appendix II.
The importance of coral reefs
Coral reefs provide uncountable species with shelter and the foundation of an intricate and fragile marine food chain. By extension, hundreds of millions of humans worldwide obtain their food and livelihoods from the life that thrives off coral reefs. Thus, without them, these masses would be left with a dearth of food and income, which would lead not only to famine and poverty, but also possibly to wars through political upheaval.
“Whole nations will be threatened in terms of their existence,” said Carl Gustaf Lundin of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
Grouper, snapper, oysters, clams, and other commonly consumed species would disappear without coral reefs.
“Fish will become a luxury good,” said Cassandra deYoung of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. “You already have a billion people who are facing hunger, and this is just going to aggravate the situation,” she added. “We will not be able to maintain food security around the world.”
Old Dominion University professor Kent Carpenter is the director of a worldwide census of marine species. He warned that if climate change continues to wreak havoc on the planet, all coral reefs could be extinct within a century.
“You could argue that a complete collapse of the marine ecosystem would be one of the consequences of losing corals,” Carpenter said. “You’re going to have a tremendous cascade effect for all life in the oceans.”
Clearly, this is a key issue for the entire planet, for the balance of ecosystems worldwide, and thus the wellbeing of non-humans and humans alike.
Stay posted for the rest of this series on coral reefs!