Washington D.C.— As 17 countries and 30 organizations launch the International Year of the Reef today, three major environmental groups – World Wildlife Fund, The Nature Conservancy and Conservation International – call on governments, businesses, scientists, non-governmental organizations and individuals around the world to vastly increase actions to protect coral reefs. The International Year of the Reef 2008, designated by the International Coral Reef Initiative, is a worldwide campaign to raise awareness about the value and importance of coral reefs and to motivate action to protect them.
In 2003, the World Parks Congress urged that at least 20 to 30 percent of each marine habitat should be protected by 2012. At current levels of effort, this goal will not be achieved for coral reefs. Given the importance of these systems for ocean life and human well-being, and the special stresses they face because of climate change, the need to act now is critical. WWF, The Nature Conservancy and Conservation International specifically urge that:
• The area of coral reefs under protection be increased globally from the current level of 15 percent to 30 percent;
• That protected areas be carefully designed as systems that are able to resist or recover rapidly from the multiple stresses they face, including those caused by climate change;
• That within these protected area systems there be significant areas where human uses are significantly limited so that already stressed marine species can recover; and
• That governments and civil society work together to achieve the effective management of all coral reef protected areas.
Unless these actions are taken, there is little likelihood that the world’s coral systems will be there to sustain and protect future generations.
Bill Eichbaum, vice-president and managing director at WWF, noted, “Coral reefs face some of the world’s most pressing environmental challenges – from climate change to destructive fishing practices. Reefs host a variety of vital sea life and are key to the health of the world’s oceans. As we mark 2008 as the International Year of the Reef, we are calling on all stakeholders to step up the pace of action to protect reefs around the world.”
“In this year of the reef, we also want to recognize and increase our support to visionary leaders like President Tommy E. Remengesau, Jr. of Palau and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia, who have both committed their nations and inspired their colleagues throughout Micronesia and the Coral Triangle to vastly expand their commitment to coral reef conservation,” said Lynne Hale, director of the Global Marine Team of The Nature Conservancy. “Coral reef conservation for many developing countries is about more than aesthetics. For the more than one billion people living in coastal communities across the tropics, healthy reefs mean food and a way to earn a living.”
“The continued existence of much of the world’s coral reefs is in doubt unless the world’s governments and private sector take immediate and concerted action to stem the loss. These ecosystems are vital to the economies of many countries and the well-being of millions of people,” said Roger McManus, vice president for Conservation International’s Marine Programs. “Many reef systems in jeopardy today can be saved and recovered if we all work together to adapt for climate change and to prevent other human-caused stress. We are working in the Coral Triangle and on coral reefs around the world to ensure a future for these unique ecosystems.”