Decline of U.S. reefs

Polyp deflation and inflation disease.

This week, new reports are coming out on the state of the ocean habitats and reefs surrounding the United States. The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration has released the contents of their study which has included at least 270 scientists working throughout the US. The results give us a reason to worry about the future of our oceans. Over half of the coral reef habitats are being classified as being in fair to poor condition.

The biggest factor is the warming of the ocean waters around the United States. Corals and reef building organisms are extremely sensitive to these warmer waters and have began to die off sharply in recent years. The warming waters are to blame in other ways also. Hurricanes are becoming more frequent and striking with a greater magnitude. These high winds and powerful waves destroy entire areas of corals. The loss of these corals reefs will take thousands of years to repair. Of course, the main contributer of this global ocean warming, is man. The overfishing and taking of marine animals is adding to our problems to preserve these habitats. Added tourism pressure is also taking its toll on these reefs and the fish needed to sustain populations.
The burning of fossil fuels has kept America strong, but the effects of pollution have not been enough to persuade us to change our ways. Now we are seeing the effects first hand. Pollution and fuel burnoff is allowing the greenhouse effect to warm these oceans and create very acidic waters that are quickly killing valuable marine life. We clearly need to take drastic measures to ensure our oceans continue to support life as our seas are the livelihood of many people around the world.

With all the bad news, comes a lot of good news. This study also shows us many things that are being done right now to address these issues. Though it is just a start, it is quite likely the most important step in finding a solution to our oceanic environmental problem. No-take areas are being erected in the Florida Keys and fishing regulations have been revamped in the area of Puerto Rico. Studies and education are continuing to spread the plight of our declining marine habitats, which is attracting funding of more valuable steps to be planned and executed. We have began to create our base for fixing this dilemma, but much more work needs to be done before we can breath easy.

For more information visit the Center for Coastal Monitoring and Assessment website.

CCMA Website
The 2008 Report
Maps of affected areas

Also, check out Reef Relief for great articles about our oceans and reefs.

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