Belize Barrier Reef in danger of dying

Australia is known for having the largest barrier reef but in the Americas we like to point out that Belize has the largest living barrier reef. That has been the main sales pitch of the tourism industry for decades but it turns out that our reef is in as much danger of dying as Australia’s. A new study recently published in Current Biology Magazine, says that “The overall density of fish in the Caribbean thinned an average of five percent annually between 1996 and 2007”. The findings are based on an analysis of forty-eight previous studies over half a century and included two hundred and seventy-three fish species. The report revealed that the world's coral is dying at record rates because of pollution, disease and global warming. In the Caribbean, eighty percent of corals have died over the past three decades, at a rate of about eight percent a year, says Michelle Paddack, of Simon Fraser University in Canada. The effect on fish has only become apparent in the last dozen years. News Five spoke to marine biologist, Doug Rader of the Environment Defense Fund, who is teaming up with the Coastal Zone Management Agency to promote efficient and productive fishing techniques.

Doug Rader, Marine Biologist

“Coral Reefs and coral reef fishes all over the Caribbean are disappearing very rapidly. More than half are gone now. In some places the fish populations on the reef are just a bare vestige of what used to be there. The older fisherman going out looking won’t even recognize the reef or the reef fish operations that they saw when they were little. The causes are complicated. In some places the losses are cause by over-fishing. That’s a Caribbean wide problem. In addition, poor coastal development that dumps mud and silt and sand on the reef also threatens them. The new one, two, three punch is the effect of global warming, warming the atmosphere, warming the sea, causing the corals to be stressed or to die and increasingly causing the ocean to be more and more acid. Some of the models suggest that over the next twenty to thirty years ocean will be so acidic that corals won’t be able to build their skeletons and reefs, as we know them today, will begin dissolving based on the basic acidity of the world ocean. So when you look at those threats and put them together, we know the future will different which is the most important reason to start managing today for a more healthy future.”

Some fish, which are especially affected, are parrot fish and surgeons, butterfly, and the grunt fish. Rader says that there is still time to save the reef and fish population but that means adapting constructive measures into current reef management plans.
Live and let live