Coral Reefs

Some 60 percent at risk

Although coral occupy less than one quarter of 1 percent of the marine environment, coral reefs are home to more than a quarter of all known marine fish species. They provide food, livelihood and other essential services for hundreds of millions of coastal dwellers, most in developing countries, whether as critical fish habitat, popular destinations for ecotourism, living space, or protection to coastal communities from storms and hurricanes. At least 500 million people live within 100 km of a coral reef, most of them in the South East Asian region, around the Indian Ocean, and in the Caribbean. Globally, coral reef fisheries support 30 to 40 million people.
Alarmingly, reefs around the world are in a state of rapid decline, and the trend of decline in coral reefs is currently intensifying. The Reefs at Risk study, released in mid-1998 jointly by UNEP, ICLARM, the World Resources Institute and the World Conservation Monitoring Centre, shows that as much as 60 percent of the reefs are at risk from overfishing, destructive fishing, pollution and sedimentation from the erosion of coastal lands. "Coral reefs may be the ecosystem equivalent of the canary in the coal mine, giving early warning that the world's ecosystems can no longer cope with growing human impacts," says Klaus Toepfer, UNEP's Executive Director.
Based on: information from UNEP's Unit for the International Coral Reef Network

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