T he Mesoamerican Reef
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The Mesoamerican Reef
The Mesoamerican Reef Threats to the great ecosystem, and solutions to the issues.
By: Jessica Allingham
DescriptionThe reef is an environmental treasure.It stretches for 115 million acres across the Caribbean coasts of Belize and Guatemala, to the Bay Islands in northern Honduras. It has 65 species of stony coral and more than 500 species of fish. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_KQILcC_qxM (watch a clip of the Mesoamerican Reef)
Threat: Fishing Practices Once rockhopper trawls were introduced in the 1980s, nets used for trawling could pass easily over rough surfaces such as corals.These trawls are very powerful and can move boulders weighing 25 tonnes making them a huge threat to coral reefs.Shrimp trawls, which until now have been conducted in Belize, catch more untargeted species, or bycatch, than almost any other type of commercial fishingIn an experiment off Alaska, 55% of cold-water coral damaged by one pass of a trawl had not recovered a year later. (World Wildlife Fund)These trawls destroy the habitat of the many amazing species that inhabit this amazing reef.
Smashed and dead cold-water coral fragments in a trawling groundBottom trawling:
3Cyanide fishing entails emitting sodium cyanide into the water to stun fish so they can be caught easily.Cyanide fishing supplies live reef fish for restaurants in many Asian countries.Some 20,000 tonnes of live fish are eaten annually in the restaurants of Hong Kong and for every live fish caught using cyanide, a square meter of their coral reef home is killed. (World Wildlife Fund)
When Dynamite fishing explosives are set off underwater killing the fish in the surrounding area and causing them to float to the surface.Not only does the explosive kill the fish but it also utterly destroys the underwater environment including the coral reefs.One blast can lead to a catch of up to 400 kg of fish and a profit of US$1,800 in market sales, a lucrative short-term profit despite the long-term destruction left behind. (Wells, S. 2009.)Dynamite Fishing:
In todays society there are way too many fish being caught leaving fish populations fighting to continue from generation to generation.Overfishing decreases the biodiversity of the reef. Greater species diversity ensures natural sustainability for all life forms [and] healthy ecosystems can better withstand and recover from a variety of disasters. ( Shah, A. 2011)Overfishing for undersized lobster, as well as females carrying eggs, is a serious conservation problem facing Central Americas Mesoamerican reef.
Threat: Climate ChangeThe current increase in global temperature of 0.7C since pre-industrial times is disrupting life in the oceans, from the tropics to the poles. ( World Wildlife Fund) If the local temperature in the Mesoamerican Reef area were to increase 2 degrees Celcius the threat would be: acute sea level rise, coral reef bleaching though temperature rise and acidification, loss of tourism attractions and fishing ground for livelihoods highly dependent on fisheries and tourism.
Coral bleaching is a stress response caused by high water temperatures; it can lead to the death of the coral.The heat impacts the algae that supply the coral with food. The heat stress damages the algae which then leads to coral death.Bleaching makes the reefs more susceptible to other stresses such a disease which is why it often can lead to death.In 1998, a mass coral bleaching caused significant coral death on the Mesoamerican Reef. By July 2005, bleaching reports came in from Belize, Mexico and the U.S. Virgin Islands affecting between 25% and 45% of coral colonies. (World Wildlife Fund)Coral Bleaching:
Global warming is predicted to cause many storms and unpredictable weather.Hurricanes Hugo and Marilyn hit the US Virgin Islands National Park in 1989 and 1995, respectively, and did massive damage to coral ecosystems. (World Wildlife Fund)The 2005 hurricane year broke all records with 26 named storms, including 13 hurricanes. (World Wildlife Fund)Storms and hurricanes are becoming more and more common in our world today.Hurricanes cause considerable damage to reefs via wave action and runoff of muddy, polluted freshwater.
Since the water is heating up many marine populations are moving north to colder waters that they are more accustomed to.When the species leave the reef the biodiversity of the reef is diminished leaving the reef remaining populations susceptible to and changes in the environment.If all the species leave the Mesoamerican Reef then it is no longer the treasure that is is today.
Protective Measure: Reef Check ProgramIt is a widely used coral monitoring system.It is a very simple yet effective method of protecting our coral reefs.It is mamaged by the Reef Check Foundation, an international marine conservation organization based out of L.A., California, United States.It has teams in over 80 countries
The Reef Check Program unites communities, the government, academia and businesses to:Create a global network.Educate the public about the issues.Scientifically investigate coral reef ecosystem processes.Facilitate collaboration between academia, businesses, NGOs and the government.Start local community action to protect the reef
Reef Check also provides data about the reefs and is working on an interactive reef monitoring data management system with ReefBase.
What They Do:
Reef Check puts together forums.They get the community involved in initiatives like:Coral Cleanup.Supporting Reef friendly businesses.Not using pesticides and fertilizers.
What They Do:
The Reef Monitoring Program is completely volunteer run.However, training and management is sometimes required.This training and management is funded by private donations, grants from foundations, the United Nations and other international and national agencies.How they Do It:
BibliographyWells, S. Dynamite Fishing in Northern TanzaniaPervasive, Problematic and yet Preventable. Marine Pollution Bulletin 58, 20-23 (2009)
Reef Check. Reef Check. (2007). Retrieved June 27, 2011 from http://www.reefcheck.org/Shah, A. Why Is Biodiversity Important? Who Cares?. Global Issues . (April 6 2011).Retrieved June 27 2011 from http://www.globalissues.org/article/170/why-is-biodiversity-important-who-caresWorld Wildlife Fund - Wildlife Conservation, Endangered Species Conservation. (n.d.). The Atlantic Ocean's Largest Coral Reef. Retrieved June 27, 2011, from http://www.worldwildlife.org/what/wherewework/mesoamericanreef/World Wildlife Fund - Wildlife Conservation, Endangered Species Conservation. (n.d.). Fishing Problems Destructive Fishing Practices. Retrieved June 27, 2011, from http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/blue_planet/problems/problems_fishing/destructive_fishing/World Wildlife Fund - Wildlife Conservation, Endangered Species Conservation. (n.d.). Sustainable Traps Boost Lobster Conservation in Central America. Retrieved June 27, 2011, from http://central-america.panda.org/about/countries/nicaragua/?uNewsID=70840World Wildlife Fund - Wildlife Conservation, Endangered Species Conservation. (n.d.). Marine Problems: Climate Change. Retrieved June 27, 2011, from http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/blue_planet/problems/climate_change/World Wildlife Fund - Wildlife Conservation, Endangered Species Conservation. (n.d.). The Atlantic Ocean's Largest Coral Reef. Retrieved June 27, 2011, from http://www.worldwildlife.orgWord Wildlife Fund Wildlife Conservation, Endangered Species Conservation. (Decemer 2009). Two Degrees is Too Much. Retrieved June 27, 2011 from http://www.worldwildlife.org/what/wherewework/mesoamericanreef/WWFBinaryitem14669.pdf