The coral reefs have significantly decreased and the extent to which was just released resulting in what could be the most significant decline of coral reefs in the world. Nearly 80% of coral reefs have been degraded by climate change, pollution, overfishing and degradation.
Loss of reefs is also a serious economic problem in the Caribbean, where large populations depend on fishing and tourism. Coral reefs provide a vital home for marine creatures, acting as a nursery for fish and a food resource for higher food chain predators such as sharks and whales.
Richard Vevers, director of the project, told the Guardian that one important role of the new survey would be to describe a new “baseline” to establish how far such problems have taken their toll to date, which will enable future scientists to judge how degradation – or conservation – progresses.
He said the team of scientists would also probe the underlying reasons for such degradation, with a view to informing conservation efforts.
Vevers said: “The Caribbean was chosen to launch the global mission because it is at the frontline of risk. Over the last 50 years 80% of the corals have been lost due mainly coastal development and pollution. They now are also threatened by invasive species, global warming and the early effects of ocean acidification — it’s the perfect storm.”