Coral Reef Destruction

Scientists believe that heat stress from multiple weather events including the latest severe El Niño, compounded by climate change, has threatened more than a third of Earth’s coral reefs. Many may not recover. ... Coral reefs are the crucial incubators of the ocean’s ecosystem, providing food and shelter to a quarter of all marine species, and they support fish stocks that feed more than one billion people. ... An estimated 30 million small-scale fishermen and women depend on reefs for their livelihoods, more than one million in the Philippines alone. In Indonesia, fish supported by the reefs provide the primary source of protein. “This is a huge, looming planetary crisis, and we are sticking our heads in the sand about it,” said Justin Marshall, the director of CoralWatch at Australia’s University of Queensland.
- Michelle Innis, Climate-Related Death of Coral Around World Alarms Scientists, NYT, April 9, 2016

According to the initial findings of a survey of Philippine coral reefs conducted from 2015 to 2017 and published in the Philippine Journal of Science, there are no longer any reefs in excellent condition, and 90 percent were classified as either poor or fair. A 2017 report by the United Nations predicts that all 29 World Heritage coral reefs, including one in the Philippines, will die by 2100 unless carbon emissions are drastically reduced. ...
On one of the islands of Bohol, Jaime Abenido, a grizzled 68-year-old handline fisherman who does not use dynamite, said that 30 years ago, he could go out to sea and fill his boat with fish “until it started to sink.” Today there are far fewer fish, he says, and the ones that remain are tiny. He listed half a dozen species he has not seen in decades.

Nevertheless, Mr. Abenido said he does not believe that fish are in danger of running out.

Despite the evidence, it’s common for Filipinos to deny the urgency of the problem, said Jimely Flores, senior marine scientist for Oceana. ...
Researchers have warned that if current trends continue, the global supply of fish could be dramatically reduced in coming decades.
In the Philippines, stocks have declined precipitously. According to a report by the Philippine national statistics board, the average daily catch in 1970 was 45 pounds. By 2000, that had dropped to 4.5 pounds. In those years, declining fish stocks pushed more people into illegal fishing.
- Aurora Almendral, In the Philippines, Dynamite Fishing Decimates Entire Ocean Food Chains, NYT, June 15, 2018

Scientists have again sounded the alarm about Australia’s imperiled Great Barrier Reef, saying that by the 2030s it could see devastating mass bleachings as often as every two years unless greenhouse gas emissions are drastically reduced.

“This would effectively sign the death certificate of one of the world’s largest living marine structures,” said Martin Rice, acting chief executive of the Climate Council, a publicly funded Australian research institute.

The Great Barrier Reef, the largest coral reef system on earth, was struck in 2016 and 2017 by massive die-offs of coral....

Nearly a third of the reef’s coral were killed....

Until late in the 20th century, large-scale coral bleaching events around the world occurred about every 27 years, on average, the Climate Council said in a report published Thursday. Now, it said, the rate is once every six years.

If climate change is not curtailed, that timetable will continue to speed up, the report said. It warned that the Great Barrier Reef in particular could experience mass coral bleaching every two years by 2034, if current trends continue.
- Jacqueline Williams, Great Barrier Reef Imperiled as Heat Worsens Die-Offs, Experts Say, NYT, July 4, 2018

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