New report highlights the important role of sustainable coral reef management

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More than half of Caribbean coral reefs have been lost in the past 30 years, but sustainable management practices can stop and reverse this trend, according to a newly released report on the status of Caribbean coral reefs.

Coral reefs host a great variety of animals and plants – they cover only a small fraction of the world’s oceans but are home to 25% of marine species, including the rainbow parrotfish Scarus guacamaia and the lime urchin Diadema antillarum. Corals do more than support wildlife – they also support people. They provide food, income from fishing and tourism, and protection from floods to an estimated 500 million people around the world.

Globally, over a quarter of monitored reefs have already been lost and climate change is often identified as the main cause of coral degradation. However, the new report suggests that local practices leading to the loss of parrotfish and sea urchins, including overfishing, pollution, coastal development and non-sustainable tourism, have been even more detrimental to Caribbean coral reefs than climate change. Improving management could save large areas of reefs from destruction and allow damaged ones to recover. 

The Ramsar Convention promotes the wise, or sustainable, use of wetlands, including coral reefs, and encourages international cooperation for the management of shared wetlands. “Since 2009, the Ramsar Caribbean Regional Initiative on Wetlands has brought together countries from the region to work towards the sustainable management of wetlands. The new report is a useful resource to plan for targeted interventions to maintain healthy coral reefs in the region,” said Christopher Briggs, Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.

The report Status and Trends of Caribbean Coral Reefs: 1970-2012 was issued by the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). It is the most comprehensive and detailed study on coral reefs published to date.

Download the full report, the executive summary or the factsheet

Caribbean coral reefs 'could vanish in 20 years', BBC’s article on the new report

Message by Secretary General Christopher Briggs for the World Coral Reef Conference 

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