Saving the Seas' Rainforests

THE outgoing Commerce secretary, Norman Mineta, has worked hard to preserve coral reefs - places not only of stunning beauty but profound importance for ocean fish breeding (story, page 12).

Now this respected Democrat is slated to become Transportation secretary under President George W. Bush. But during his brief time at Commerce, the political tide shifted in the ocean's favor. He launched initiatives to protect reefs off the Florida Keys and Hawaii, as well as in the Gulf of Mexico. And he ordered a study of the effects of global warming on reefs.

The next Commerce secretary should keep up this momentum. Overfishing, recreation, coral harvesting, and pollution have taken a toll on reefs. Global climate change could do damage too - even one degree warmer water can cause coral "bleaching."

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Incredibly, some 16 percent of the world's reefs were lost in the past nine months; 60 percent could be gone by 2030, according to the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network. Mineta's initiatives arrived none too soon.

By 2025, as many as 3 out of 4 Americans will live within 50 miles of an ocean coastline, and since the majority of ocean pollution comes from land, the need for education and controls at the local level is apparent.

Consumers can be smarter: eating seafood sustainably harvested, or bred. They can be cautious in buying coral products and choosing ocean tours that are eco-friendly.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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