Death of coral reefs could devastate nations
As studies predict that vital coral reefs are headed for extinction worldwide, experts say hunger, poverty, and political instability could ensue.
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Many fishermen oppose such restrictions. And other environmental measures have run into resistance at the state, local, national and international level. On Sunday, during a gathering of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, restrictions proposed by the U.S. and Sweden on the trade of some coral species were rejected.Skip to next paragraph
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If reefs were to disappear, commonly consumed species of grouper and snapper could become just memories. Oysters, clams and other creatures that are vital to many people's diets would also suffer. And experts say commercial fisheries would fail miserably at meeting demand for seafood.
"Fish will become a luxury good," said Cassandra deYoung of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. "You already have a billion people who are facing hunger, and this is just going to aggravate the situation," she added. "We will not be able to maintain food security around the world."
The economic damage could be enormous. Ocean fisheries provide direct employment to at least 38 million people worldwide, with an additional 162 million people indirectly involved in the industry, according to the U.N.
Coral reefs draw scuba divers, snorkelers and other tourists to seaside resorts in Florida, Hawaii, Southeast Asia and the Caribbean and help maintain some of the world's finest sandy beaches by absorbing energy from waves. Without the reefs, hotels, restaurants and other businesses that cater to tourists could suffer financially.
Many Caribbean countries get nearly half their gross national product from visitors seeking tropical underwater experiences.
People all over the world could pay the price if reefs were to disappear, since some types of coral and marine species that rely on reefs are being used by the pharmaceutical industry to develop possible cures for cancer, arthritis and viruses.
"A world without coral reefs is unimaginable," said Jane Lubchenco, a marine biologist who heads NOAA. "Reefs are precious sources of food, medicine and livelihoods for hundreds of thousands around the world. They are also special places of renewal and recreation for thousands more. Their exotic beauty and diverse bounty are global treasures."