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“Fighting to Save the Rainforests of the Ocean”

environmental issues For more than a decade there has been unending publicity regarding the destruction of the oceans coral reefs. Unfortunately nobody seems to be listening. I know how difficult it is when we are faced with so many environmental problems: plastic bags, global warming, greenhouse gases, pollution and the list goes on. The sad fact is that we wouldn’t be faced with these problems if we hadn’t created them.

There is no doubt that of the utmost importance is our ocean environment and in particular coral reefs. Does anyone realize that without this environment life on our planet would cease to exist. Coral reefs are the lifeline for people world wide, and they are dying off at a rapid rate. They are threatened by pollution, overfishing, coastal runoff, and global warming. The facts are alarming. In the past few decades one quarter of the world’s coral reefs have been destroyed by human activity. THIS IS UNBELIEVABLE!

At this rate 57% will be lost within our lifetime.

This is a sad situation considering it took 50 million years of evolution to create the most complex webs of biodiversty on earth. Reefs consist of more than 800 species of reef building coral and over 4000 species of reef dwelling fish. Coral reefs shelter as much as one-quarter of all marine species and are important nurseries for young fish. Sedimentation and pollution from onshore construction is one of the biggest threats. Dredging and moving sand eventually drifts with the currents and settles on top of the reefs therefore suffocating all life. Reefs that are subjected to harmful human impacts like these are unlikely to ever recover. Think about it.....a good healthy piece of coral grows at a rate of 1.3 to 10.2 centimeters per year. Now that you know the facts lets talk a little closer to home. Two-thirds of Caribbean reef’s are under increased threat from human activities. Most Caribbean reefs are located within 2 kilometers of populated land. Dredging and coastal development, loss of mangroves and seagrass present a clear threat to surrounding reefs. The following fact is quite disturbing.... Here in the Caribbean only 6 percent of the 285 designated marine protected areas were rated effectively managed while 48 percent were listed as inadequate.

Here in St. Maarten the problem is huge. Sand sediment and runoff pollution can be seen on 75% of the reefs off the Great Bay and Cay Bay area. Much of the marine life on our local reefs is gone and underwater visibility has been reduced dramatically. Between Hurricanes and the dredging of sand the reefs are suffering.

We talk about these problems but what can be done to help save our reefs. Believe it or not its quite simple. Local governments need to take an active role and put in place laws that will protect our ocean environment. Why not take a break from all this construction, dredging and land clearing for awhile and re-evaluate the situation. Our reefs are in trouble. It’s time to start protecting them. A very functional Marine Park would also be a help.