Fiji PM: We're losing the battle to save coral reefs

2018-01-18 05:22
(Caleb Jones, AP)

(Caleb Jones, AP)

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Savusavu - Coral reefs that sustain about one billion people worldwide will be gone by the end of the century unless urgent international action is taken to mitigate climate change, scientists say.

The world is at a "make or break point" when it comes to saving the oceans' reefs, Erik Solheim, head of the UN Environment Programme, said at an event to mark the start of the International Year of the Reef in Fiji on Wednesday.

Beauty of reefs

"We see globally a very, very, steep decline in the corals. A lot of bleaching incidents, a lot of dying [of reefs] - and we need to change," said Solheim.

"[Losing the reefs] would be a shame morally for humans. We would be the one generation destroying some of the most beautiful, most important ecosystems we have".

Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama told the conference "on present indications, we are losing the battle.

"It is a shocking fact that our generation could be among the last to witness the beauty of our reefs and benefit from their bounty," Bainimarama said.


Covering less than 0.1% of the seabed, coral reefs support about 25% of global marine life.

But manmade factors including rising water temperatures caused by climate change, ocean acidification, and destructive fishing practices, have led to the demise of many of the world's coral reefs.

Stress response

Between 2015 and 2017, a global bleaching event affected all but three of the 29 coral reefs listed by Unesco as world heritage sites.

Coral bleaching is a potentially lethal stress response to overly warm water in which the coral expels symbiotic micro algae feeding it, turning it white.

The bleaching event that ended in 2017 alone is believed to have killed as much as half the coral in Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

Read more on:    fiji  |  marine life  |  conservation

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