By Marion Ali, Staff Reporter
The Caribbean is currently experiencing the biggest mass coral destruction ever recorded. This according to the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) which confirmed that the bleaching of reefs in the Caribbean, Atlantic and Pacific may affect over 38 percent of the world’s reefs, and kill over 12,000 square kilometer of them.
Reefs are the breeding ground for tropical fisheries and this reality endangers the livelihoods of 500 million people who rely on the seas and oceans, which also provide shelter from the waves for tropical islands and bring tourist revenues.
Scientists warn that if spectacular coral reefs as we know them are not killed firdt by human activities, they are unlikely to survive increase in temperatures by the end of this century.
The current worldwide bleaching is predicted to be the worst on record as the warming Pacific current, known as El Nino, increases in strength. Water temperatures are being further increased by a separate natural warm-water mass called the Pacific Blob.
Man-made climate change also contributes, as the oceans are absorbing about 93 percent of the increase in the earth’s heat.
In addition, corals face ocean acidification as CO2 emissions are absorbed into the oceans, changing the make-up and balance of seawater.
Other threats include over-fishing, pollution, sedimentation and damage from boats and unregulated marine tourism.
The current bleaching episode was predicted by NOAA and confirmed by researchers and citizen scientists in the Caribbean. The main groups involved are XL Catlin Seaview Survey, the University of Queensland, and Reef Check.
Coral bleaching was first seen by researchers in 1979, but in a localised area. Then in 1998 the first global bleaching killed 16 percent of the world’s corals. The current phenomenon could be worse.