I was educated by some alarming information on coral reefs about two years ago when I watched an IMAX movie at OMSI on how human interference has caused an enormous threat to coral reefs. The movie made me appreciate the marvels of nature’s creations, so breathtakingly gorgeous and morphologically perfected however on the other hand how the ecological integrity of the reefs is compromised by the destructive practices of overfishing and marine pollution.
Coral reefs are often referred to as the “rainforests of the oceans” and also known to be the largest, complex ecological community of biological origin that grow slowly while building deposits of calcium carbonate. The organisms that make up the coral colonies are stationary and get their nourishment from reaching out their tentacles to small fish and plankton as their food. The coral reefs also provide a habitat for food and shelter for the diverse sea life and in such a way a very symbiotic relationship is formed. Any imbalance caused to this natural system greatly upsets not only the marine life but also the ecosystem at large with effects like changes in temperature, chemical and water quality, erosion control; reefs are not able to withstand long-term stress.
The current statics show that more than half of the world’s reefs are at medium to high risk of destruction and exhibit little recovery from this damage. The Great Barrier Reef along the coastline of north-eastern Australia located in the Coral Sea is the world’s largest single structure made by living organisms. A lot of revenue is generated from the tourism industry associated with the Great Barrier Reef. It is under serious peril of deterioration due to rise in temperature of the waters cause of global warming as corals thrive within a specific range of temperatures (77-80 degrees fahrenheit) optimum for their calcification of structures. The increase in carbon dioxide in the water changes the PH value of the water causing what is known as ocean acidification. This causes coral bleaching when they shed the algae that live in their tissue which impart the brilliant hues to the corals and the corals are flushed out of any colorations and become white. Another reason the Great Barrier reef is on the brink of irrecoverable stress is the nitrogen-based pesticide runoff released in the ocean from the local farming communities further deteriorates the water quality.
A number of countries such as Australia, France, Jamaica, Japan, Philippines, Sweden, U.K. and U.S. are part of the international efforts to address the issues related to coral reef degradation with a governing body that was formed in 1994 called the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI). Under this governance various programs are formed to conserve and restore the use of coral reefs and develop and research programs that will monitor the coral reef environments. Although ICRI is not a funding organization, it is able to take measures to develop policies and legislation to protect the coral reefs and the environments that are affected by it.
Our various readings glorify marine ‘activist efforts’ like certification from ‘Marine Stewardship council’, consumer regeneration, subsistence fishing, ecological aquaculture in the name of ‘Blue Revolution’, can they truly alleviate the domino effect damage we have brought about or is human extinction truly the answer? Maybe our association with nature calls for a more humble approach to behave in a symbiotic relationship akin to the coral ecosystem where we mutually respect our place on this planet.
Not sure after this blog and being aware of some atrocious acts that our species have been carrying out in the name of ‘fishing’ if I will be able to find my tuna sandwich pretty palatable!
Ecosystem Overfishing – where fishing becomes unsustainable at the ecosystem level