International Year of the Reef is a worldwide campaign to raise awareness about the importance of coral reefs and the threats they face. Throughout 2008 the three UK groups will announce public events and activities to promote reef conservation and motivate people to take action to protect them.
It has been 10 years since governments and conservation organisations around the world declared the first International Year of the Reef in 1997. During that first campaign, hundreds of groundbreaking studies were conducted to determine the status of coral reefs and numerous international policies were enacted to protect these vital resources.
“While much was accomplished in 1997, the threats to coral reefs around the world have grown exponentially over the past ten years,” said Richard Nimmo, Managing Director of Blue Ventures. “Climate change, pollution and destructive fishing practices are threatening to irrevocably destroy these vital resources that are essential to life on earth. We must act now before it is too late.”
Coral reefs have been called the “rainforests of the sea” because of the vast diversity of life they support. Reefs cover less than one percent of the Earth’s surface, yet they are home to 25 percent of all marine fish species.
But more than half of the world’s coral reefs are at risk from human activities. At the present rate of destruction, 70 percent of the world’s reefs will be destroyed by the year 2050.
Coral Cay Conservation is the principal UK coordinator (representing ‘Reef Conservation UK’) for International Year of the Reef activities. Peter Raines MBE, Founder of Coral Cay Conservation, said: “Coral reefs are a vital life-support system for hundreds of millions of people. If they vanish at the rates predicted, the economic and social consequences will be catastrophic. But there is good news out there, with coastal communities working in effective partnerships with UK volunteer organisations such as Blue Ventures and Coral Cay Conservation to protect, rehabilitate and sustainably use coral reef resources.”
Enlisting the help of volunteer divers and snorkelers around the world, Project AWARE recently launched CoralWatch to gather information on how climate change is “bleaching” and killing coral reefs. More than 400 CoralWatch coordinators have signed up to collect data and monitor reef health.
“Volunteer divers and snorkelers around the world are making their underwater experience count for coral reef conservation by getting involved in activities such as CoralWatch,” said Suzanne Pleydell, Director of Project AWARE Foundation International. “There are many questions that need to be answered regarding patterns of bleaching and recovery as well as the severity and duration of bleaching events. The data collected by CoralWatch volunteers is critical to help answer these questions and find solutions to protect these incredible habitats.”
Coral Cay Conservation, Blue Ventures and Project AWARE Foundation will work with like-minded businesses, government leaders, non-profits and individuals to raise awareness for the need of reef conservation and push for policies and programmes that will ensure these precious resources remain healthy and productive for generations to come.
The three organisations have won international recognition over the years from such bodies as the United Nations, the World Conservation Union and governments worldwide for their work to protect coral reefs in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific.