Thursday, June 07, 2007

'Caribbean Corals in Danger of Extinction'

A 7 June press released from Conservation International and IUCN says a new (sic) study shows that Caribbean coral species "are dying off, indicating dramatic shifts in the ecological balance under the sea":
The study found that 10 percent of the Caribbean’s 62 reef-building corals were under threat, including staghorn and elkhorn corals. These used to be the most prominent species but are now candidates to be listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species...
The study, which analyzed data on Western Tropical Atlantic corals, seagrasses, mangroves and algae, is "the first in a series of Global Marine Species Assessments (GMSA) of key marine primary-producers on a global scale"
...Next to corals, mangroves appear to be the hardest hit. Mangrove cover in the region has declined by 42% over the past 25 years, with two of the eight mangrove species now considered Vulnerable to extinction and two more in Near Threatened status...

...The scientists noted that some healthy Caribbean coral reefs still exist in well-managed marine protected areas such as Bonaire Marine Park in the Netherlands Antilles. Direct human impacts are reduced in these areas allowing most corals to thrive; however, thermal stress from global warming affects all corals in the Caribbean and must be reversed if these refuges of Caribbean beauty are to survive...

“The Caribbean tourism industry relies heavily on the beauty and health of its sea life,” said Dr. Kent Carpenter, GMSA Director. “Concentrated marine conservation and a global effort to halt man-induced climate change are necessary to preserve this vital economic engine in the region.”
At the time of writing, the press release is not posted in the relevant sections of the web sites of CI or IUCN. Photos are posted here.

[P.S. 10 June Not everyone is convinced that corals are wll protected in Bonaire. See comment attached to this post]


Anonymous Thomas J. Goreau said...

Why circulate more false claims of discovery?

Gee, we've only been saying this for 50 years, based on direct observations. Where were they?

The claim that Bonaire is in excellent shape is only true in comparison to other places now, not how it used to be. Take a look at Jeff Houdret's photographs on the GCRA web site showing that the coral grew all along the shore to the surface so that one could not swim out from shore, so every hotel dynamited channels to let the swimmers out. Now one can only find a handful of tiny remnants of dead coral fragments from this once wonderful reef. The long term Bonaire photographic monitoring data,. which I have looked at, shows continuous decline, but they do not allow it to be published. When James Cervino and I found coral diseases all over Bonaire 10 years ago the response was to accuse us of being a plot against their tourism industry, and the head of the Bonaire Marine Park was almost fired for letting us look. Even today you can't say "coral diseases" without her involuntarily cringing.

10:35 am  
Anonymous Jeffrey Houdret said...

I dove in Bonaire probably five times or more in the late 70's and early 80's. When I photographed the reef growing out of the water (See:, the water was distinctly cool. We always wore 1/8th wetsuits or shorties. The last time I was there a few years ago, the water was noticeably warmer.

Admittedly in the 80's, we generally went to Bonaire during the Christmas holidays, and my last trip there was in the fall.

I recall a conversation in 1980 with Peter Hughes who observed, "How can the sun be so damned hot and the water so damned cold". Not particularly scientific but you get the drift.

The other observation is that, the magnificent near shore reef that grew out of the water has been totally destroyed. This reef was perhaps 10 to 15 feet in depth and 20 feet from the shoreline. But, the deeper reef along the wall at 80 feet + is still there. Not as robust as in the 70's but it lives.

Jeff Houdret

5:51 pm  
Anonymous Jeffrey Houdret said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

5:51 pm  
Anonymous Jeffrey Houdret said...

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5:51 pm  

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