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Mark Eakin on Diane Rehm Show Discussing New Caribbean Coral Reef Report

photo: Coral Reefs at Risk

11 August 2014 - CoralReefWatch's Mark Eakin appeared on August 5's Diane Rehm show as part of a panel of commentators discussing a new report organized by the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network on the status and deterioration of Caribbean coral reefs. According to "Status and Trends of Caribbean Coral Reefs: 1970-2012", most Caribbean coral reefs are likely to disappear in the next 20 years, primarily due to loss of grazers like parrotfish in the region, as well as pollution and bleaching from ocean warming.

The report, Status and Trends of Caribbean Coral Reefs: 1970-2012, is the most detailed and comprehensive study of its kind published to date - the result of the work of 90 experts over the course of three years. It contains the analysis of more than 35,000 surveys conducted at 90 Caribbean locations since 1970, including studies of corals, seaweeds, grazing sea urchins and fish.

The results show that the Caribbean corals have declined by more than 50% since the 1970s. But according to the authors, restoring parrotfish populations and improving other management strategies, such as protection from overfishing and excessive coastal pollution, could help the reefs recover and make them more resilient to future climate change impacts.

"The rate at which the Caribbean corals have been declining is truly alarming," says Carl Gustaf Lundin, Director of IUCN's Global Marine and Polar Programme. "But this study brings some very encouraging news: the fate of Caribbean corals is not beyond our control and there are some very concrete steps that we can take to help them recover."

Guests on the Diane Rehm segment included:

  • Andrew Revkin, writes the Dot Earth blog for The New York Times; Senior Fellow for Environmental Understanding at Pace University;
  • STAR's Mark Eakin, coordinator, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Coral Reef Watch program;
  • Nancy Knowlton, Sant Chair for Marine Science, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History;
  • Fabien Cousteau, oceanographic explorer, conservationist and documentary filmmaker.