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Going, going, gone! All reefs could die in 20 years


Devastation. That’s how marine experts here predict the future of coral. 

A study carried out in the United States claims in just 20 years’ time, the overall health of reefs will be severely compromised.  

Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say global warming is taking such a toll, coral reefs could disappear in just two decades.  

“I’m concerned because we could very well see bleaching return to Florida, parts of the Caribbean and Hawaii,” Mark Eakin, a coral reef specialist at NOAA, said.  

“It won’t be as severe as 2015, but we’ve now moved into a general pattern where warmer than normal temperatures are the new normal.  

“We are looking at the loss or at least severe degradation of most reefs in the coming decades.” 

The Central Caribbean Marine Institute in Little Cayman believes bleaching is just one of many problems. 

Director Dr. Carrie Manfrino said: “Of even greater concern is that we set international sustainable development goals that are inadequate to prevent the devastation of the world’s coral reefs.  

“For example, the UN established fantastic Sustainable Development Goals for the planet but is recommending that we protect only 10 percent of the ocean.” 

Their study of a site in Little Cayman actually showed coral growth, and in some cases, new coral forming.  

Dr. Manfrino added: “We measured 30-40 percent coral cover, remarkable growth of new corals and some large live coral colonies that are considered EDGE (Ecologically distinct and globally endangered) species.   

“Why are these reefs thriving? To a great extent because local impacts are minimal.” 

If coral reefs disappear, so too would a natural buffer that protects our coasts from waves, storms and floods.”  

If reefs were to disappear, commonly consumed species of grouper and snapper could become just memories. Oysters, clams and other creatures that are vital to many people’s diets would also suffer. And experts say commercial fisheries would fail miserably at meeting demand for seafood. 

“We can protect local coral reefs by expanding marine protected areas, by reducing human impact, this includes all human impact, and certainly by more aggressively reducing global emissions,” added Dr. Manfrino. 

About Paul Kennedy

During a career that spans almost three decades, Paul has covered some of the biggest stories in the world for regional and national newspapers. A multi-award winning journalist and published author, he has worked for the past six years producing television news and documentaries in Cayman. Paul is also the host of a weekly football show. His dream story is to find a dog that can play piano.

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