Report: 9th International Coral Reef Symposium and ICRI Coordination and Planning Committee Meeting, Bali, October 2000


9th International Coral Reef Symposium and ICRI Coordination and Planning Committee Meeting, Bali, Indonesia October 23- 29, 2000

Gilberto Cintron, U.S. Ramsar STRP National Focal Point

sc21fa.jpg (9831 bytes)Gil Cintron, United States Fish and Wildlife Service and USA National Focal Point for Ramsar Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP), represented the Ramsar Convention at the recent International Coral Reef Symposium, and has filed this report:

The 9th International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS) and the ICRI CPC Meeting took place in Bali, October 23-29, 2000. The ICRS brought together more than 1,500 scientists and reef area managers. The meeting’s venue was the Nusa Dua International Conference Center. The ICRI meeting followed the ICRS (Oct 28 and 29). The ICRS takes place every four years. Japan was selected to become the next host of the ICRS in 2004 (Okinawa). The Ramsar Bureau and the USFWS co-sponsored my participation in these activities in which I was asked to represent the Bureau.

1. Presentations at the ICRS were organized to include: A. State of Knowledge; B. Resource Management; C. Socio-Economic Issues; D. Assessment, Monitoring and Rehabilitation; and, E. The Future of Coral Reefs. These five broad themes were contained within 58 Mini-Symposiums. In addition, there were more than 300 poster presentations. The quality of the presentation was generally excellent and most addressed applied and timely management and conservation issues.

2. I was able to present a paper on the Science and Policy Mini-Symposium (organized by Barbara Best, USAID) on the role of scientists in Multilateral Environmental Agreement (MEA) implementation. This paper examines the role the technical and scientific community can play on the development and implementation of MEAs, using Ramsar as an example.

3. During the ICRS meeting the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN) released the report entitled "Status of the Coral Reefs of the World 2000". The International Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC), UNEP, and the IUCN-World Conservation Union jointly sponsor GCRMN. The report documents the continuing and disturbing decline in the health of reefs throughout their range. It also provides new evidence that coral reefs continue to be destroyed and degraded by human-induced actions that threaten their integrity and function.

4. According to this report, 11% of the world’s reefs have effectively been lost and 16% are not fully functional. The largest recent single cause of reef degradation has been the massive climate-related coral bleaching event of 1998. This destroyed some 16% of the coral reefs of the world during the 9-month duration of the El Niño and La Niña phenomena. Although there is some probability of recovery, it is expected that half of these reefs will not restore. This will represent an additional loss of 11% to the reefs already lost. Regional differences in mortality/loss are significant; as much as 21% of the Caribbean Atlantic and 16% of the South and East Asia reefs may have been lost already (pre-1998).

5. It is not expected that reefs will "disappear" in the immediate future, but significant changes in reef structure and reductions in harvestable products and environmental services will take place.

6. Increasing human activities have led to massive degradation of reefs due to deforestation, erosion and sedimentation, pollution of coastal waters, and fisheries overexploitation as well as the negative impacts of certain fishery practices (such as the use of explosives and poisons). As a result reefs continue to deteriorate in all areas near human settlements.

7. A major new finding is the extent, degree, and increased frequency of bleaching events and disease outbreaks. Bleaching events are coupled to steadily rising sea surface temperatures (SST). SST’s above 1 - 2 °C and extremely calm conditions during the 1997-98 El Niño-La Niña events led to massive worldwide bleaching and mortalities. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has predicted a 1 - 2 °C increase in SST during this century. If predicted rates of greenhouse emissions continue, and if these are confirmed as the trigger for global warming, it is expected that events such as the one experienced in 1998 may increase in frequency and duration causing further devastation to reefs and setbacks in recovery by recurring bouts of coral bleaching and mortality. Repeated bleaching events will reverse any recovery.

8. Peter Glynn (Univ. of Miami) presented an overview of the impacts of the 1997-1998 ENSO event on coral reefs. This event was characterized by its magnitude (3 - 4 °C anomaly) and duration (3-4 months). This event was comparable to an earlier one in 1982-83. Both caused widespread bleaching and mortality over the entire eastern Pacific. During the 1982-83 event high mortalities were recorded from 16 °N (southern Mexico) to 2 °S (Ecuador, including the Galapagos and the mainland). During 1997-98 mortalities spread from 24 °N (northern Mexico) to 2 °S. The timing and severity of the event closely correlated with SST anomalies obtained by remote sensing and local observations. The 1997-98 event reversed the recovery of reefs from the earlier event in many locations.

9. The high temperatures of 1997-98 were attributed to an unusually severe El Niño event, but this episode may have greater significance because it may signal the type of changes that we can expect if temperatures continue to increase as a result from global warming. There is little doubt that climate change is having a significant impact on the world’s coral reefs and there is little indication that corals are being able to adapt fast enough to the changes taking place as a result of global climate change. Current actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are not proceeding fast enough to prevent additional damage to the world’s coral reefs.

10. The conservation implication of these findings is that (according to the GCRMN Status report) the agenda for coral reef conservation has been changed. Before the 1997-98 bleaching event, major actions to conserve reefs were directed at reducing direct human impacts. Now the fight has shifted to two fronts; the need to enhance management to abate direct anthropogenic impacts at all scales; and action to assess and study the impacts of global climate change on coral reefs and reduction in global emissions of greenhouse gases.

11. The majority of the scientists at the Bali conference agreed that climate change is having a significant impact on the world’s coral reefs. A special session within the conference discussed how increasing levels of CO2 leads to decreased calcification rates and weakening of the coral structure.

12. In terms of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) design, the events of 1998 indicate the importance of the establishment of networks of MPAs to avoid devastation of a few "oases". Alternatively, MPAs could be made larger to incorporate multiple uses and cushion large-scale disturbances. It is suggested by the Status report that MPAs at this scale may be more appropriate to accommodate human use, and may have greater chances of achieving sustainability.

13. MPA issues were discussed in various sessions. One of the most interesting presentations was that of Dr. Graeme Kelleher. His paper indicated strategies for the establishment and successful management of coral reef marine protected areas (MPAs) based on experiences from around the world. Dr. Kelleher has kindly given us permission to reproduce this paper and has already made available to us the electronic version. I suggest that we use Wetlands for the Future (WFF) funds to develop Spanish and English [French?] versions of this document. In general it appears that MPA designations still remain primarily ad hoc processes without a system vision to guide their development. MPAs will remain vulnerable unless managed within an ICZM program that recognizes regional attributes and processes. Unless this scale problem is recognized MPAs will remain vulnerable to change and could remain ephemeral.

14. As per the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) request to Ramsar (11 October 2000), I participated in the CBD liaison group meetings to assist in the preparation of draft elements of the work plan on physical degradation and destruction of coral reefs, a component of the CBD programme of work on the conservation and sustainable use of marine and coastal biodiversity. These meetings took place during the ICRS and concluded during the ICRI CPC meeting. Mr. Jo Mulongoy (CBD) hosted these meetings. The participation of Ramsar in these meetings was recognized and appreciated.

15. During the ICRS, I had the opportunity to work on the development of two WFF projects. One is a training session for Caribbean Coral Reef Managers. The activity is being co-sponsored by UNEP (CAR RCU) and NOAA. I met several times with Arthur Paterson (NOAA) and Alessandra Vanzella (CAR/RCU) to discuss details of the activity. Alessandra will send a formal proposal to Ramsar once final agreement is reached on the scope and timing of the activity. The other project would provide partial support for the first meeting of the Scientific and Technical Council for Mexican Coral Reefs (COCCYTAC). This Council was officially created on June 2, 2000 and is being supported and financed by the Mexican Ministry of the Environment (SEMARNAP); (for more information see ICRI document 21). The COCCYTAC is Mexico’s ICRI Committee. The WFF project concept is to support this national meeting at which time specific reefs could be identified as potential Ramsar sites. The COCCYTAC is also involved in the GEF Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System Project (MBRS). The COCCYTAC President is Dr. Ernesto Arias Gonzalez ( A draft proposal has already being received from this group.


16. The French Secretariat of ICRI led their final ICRI meeting since the Secretariat has been rotated and henceforth will be led jointly by the Philippines and Sweden. Present at the meeting were representatives of Australia, Philippines, Sweden, Malaysia, Japan, Mexico, Jamaica, India, Indonesia, Vietnam as well as France, as the host.

17. France was very active in its support of the ICRI Secretariat during the last two years. Bernard Salvat, Genevieve Verbrugge and Francis Staub worked actively to support ICRI.

18. NGO and Partner Organizations present at the Bali meeting included: UNEP, CBD, UNESCO/IOC, Ramsar, WWF, STREP, and the U.S. Government State Department, USAID and NOAA.

19. Bernard Salvat (Co-chair ICRI Secretariat) welcomed Ramsar’s participation and declared that ICRI considers Ramsar an important tool for coral reef conservation and that it is essential to maintain close ties between both entities. The Ramsar Draft Guidelines for Identification and Designation of Coral Reefs as Wetlands of International Importance (Draft V.2b) were introduced as ICRI document no.16 for comments by ICRI members and for information regarding Ramsar’s conservation and management approach for coral reefs.

20. ICRI is seeking to increase its ICRI CPC membership. Membership is automatic for countries that establish a national ICRI committee. This committee must contain at least two government departments concerned with coral reefs. Countries planning to form such committees are India and Malaysia.

21. It appears that ICRI country and focal point nominations are made using national IOC contacts. These often represent oceanographic institutes or navy departments that have limited interests in coral reef issues. As a result they have received few responses for focal point nominations. The Ramsar Bureau could consider offering the ICRI Secretariat the list of Ramsar Focal Points for more effective collaboration and coordination between both organizations. With this possibility in mind, I prepared a Directory of the Ramsar Parties that have coral reefs. This Directory has been sent to the Bureau.

22. The Under Secretary of the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources of the Philippines, Mr. Mario Rono, presented a proposed work program for the Philippines two year hosting of the ICRI Secretariat (Document #30).

23. Mr. Hakan Berg, Mathias Lund and Olof Linden represented Sweden. Mr. Berg informed the meeting that the Swedish Government agencies, SIDA and SAREC, will support the initiative and will co-chair the Secretariat with the Philippines for the next two years.

24. The work program includes the hosting of the Second International Tropical Marine Ecosystem Management Symposium (ITMEMS 2) October 21-24, 2002 in Manila to review progress under the ICRI Framework for Action. Proposed activities also include hosting the regular ICRI-CPC meetings during March and October of each year. The last meeting will be made to coincide with ITMEMS 2. Document #30 contains a comprehensive calendar of activities.

25. Activities include regional workshops to be held in conjunction with ICRI biannual meetings; for East Asia (CY 2001, Cebu City, April 2-4, followed by ICRI meeting April 5-6), East Africa (CY 2001, October 21-24 followed by ICRI meeting October 25-26). A Caribbean meeting is scheduled for CY 2002, March 25-27 to be followed by the ICRI meeting March 28-29. The purpose of the workshops will be to contribute to capacity building on coral reef protection management and research, review laws and policies, assess development of Training Modules for coral reef managers, developing community based approaches for research and monitoring, and promoting sustainable fisheries.

26. The Secretariat will continue to promote ICRI among UN bodies and other international forums. It will attend the 2001 and 2002 Sessions of the Commission on Sustainable Development, Rio+10, and the CBD COP as well as other relevant forums.

27. Transfer of the ICRI Web site was discussed. Specifically, the advantage of a permanent Web site was considered at the meeting. This will avoid changes with changes in Secretariat. Support has been obtained from the World Bank and ICRI Secretariat through France. The incoming Secretariat has been tasked with updating the ICRI focal point list to ensure that key coral reef decision-makers are identified in all coral reef countries.

28. The ICRI meeting passed several resolutions. The final texts will be posted on the ICRI Web site (www. Among the various resolutions were those dealing with: (1) Need to broaden financial support and collaboration; (2) Need to increase funding available for coral reef basic, strategic and applied coral reef research; (3) Call for attention to the continued impacts of climate change on coral reefs. This last resolution endorses three press releases and statements made by scientists and managers at the 9th ICRS.

29. The CBD representative reported that the CBD is developing a coral reef program as part of the implementation of the Jakarta Mandate. A group of experts has drafted a discussion paper on coral bleaching. CBD will recommend more focus on coral reef activities as well as support increased funding. ICRI will be the lead body for coral reef coordination and consultation.

30. IUCN (Sue Wells) reported that IUCN has not been a regular participant because of lack of personnel and not because of lack of interest. IUCN continues to support ICRI by participation in various forums, including Ramsar. According to Wells, two of the six IUCN commissions are active on coral reef issues. These are: The World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) and the Species Survival Commission Specialist Group on Coral Reefs. The WCPA has a marine component chaired by Charles Ehler (NOAA). Wells presented copies of the handbook on coral reef bleaching sponsored by IUCN, WWF, CBD and USAID.

31. The CPC partners welcomed the IUCN booklet but it was indicated that it did not address the issue of reef rehabilitation. Specifically there is concern that various "technological" fixes are being offered, raising false hopes, when these can only repair very small areas at exorbitant costs. The ICRI CPC requested that a discussion paper be prepared on reef rehabilitation methods, including information related to scale, costs, equipment required, success rate, long-term viability, and if these can be applied by local communities. Sue Wells (IUCN) was nominated to be part of the group that will develop the paper.

32. During the ICRI meeting I was approached by Dr. Vo Si Tuan (thuysinh, Head of the Department of Marine Living Resources of the Institute of Oceanography of Vietnam, asking for assistance in designating coral reefs as Ramsar Sites. I provided Dr. Tuan with Margarita Astrálaga’s e-mail address for a Ramsar contact.

33. Interest in Ramsar was high at both the ICRS and ICRI meetings. Ramsar materials placed for distribution at the ICRS meeting were eagerly picked up. In particular, the green Ramsar brochure was well received; English, Spanish and French copies were distributed. Also very useful was the Ramsar document "Coral Reefs and the Ramsar Convention". Some 500 copies of this document were distributed at the ICRS. It was also introduced at the ICRI meeting where it became official document no. 17. The presentation at the Science and Policy Mini Symposium was also very well received and led to a stimulating discussion. B. Salvat (Co-chair ICRI Secretariat) welcomed Ramsar’s participation and affirmed that ICRI considers Ramsar an important tool for coral reef conservation and pointed out the importance of maintaining close links between both organizations.

Gilberto Cintron
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
USA National Focal Point for the Ramsar STRP

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