Christine Dell'Amore -
The Caribbean’s coral reefs have collapsed, mostly due to overfishing and climate change, according to a new report released by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
In the most comprehensive study yet of Caribbean coral reefs, scientists have discovered that the 50 to 60 percent coral cover present in the 1970s has plummeted to less than 10 percent.
“I’m sad to tell you it’s a dire picture,” Carl Gustaf Lundin, director of IUCN’s Global Marine and Polar Programme, said at a news briefing Friday at the World Conservation Congress in Jeju Island, South Korea.
Called “Nature’s Olympics,” the conference will explore five environmental themes over five days.
Today’s theme is Nature+ Climate, which focuses on how to combat global warming.
Much of the decline is caused by a massive die-off of sea urchins in the 1970s—possibly due to disease.
Without these reef grazers—the “cows in the field” that keep vegetation in check—the number of algae and grasses have skyrocketed, dominating reefs and pushing corals aside, Lundin said.
What’s more, overfishing of grazer species such as parrotfish or surgeonfish is allowing more algae to take over and outcompete the coral, said Ameer Abdulla, IUCN senior advisor on Marine Biodiversity and Conservation Science.