The International Union for Conservation of Nature has released a report saying that the Caribbean’s iconic reefs are in sharp decline, with live coral coverage down to an average of just eight percent. Shockingly, due to overfishing, pollution, disease and bleaching caused by rising global temperatures, that is down 50% from what it was in the 1970s.

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The non-governmental organization unveiled the information at an international environmental conference in Koreawhere they said that time was “running out” for the region, and that stringent safeguards were needed.

The report also stated that the coral destruction was worse in certain areas than others. However some parts of the reef including the Dutch islands of the southern Caribbean and the British territory of the Cayman Islands still have up to 30% cover in places.

The rapid decline in coral growth was described as “critical” as with so little growth of live coral, the reefs are in danger of utter devastation. Carl Gustaf Lundin, director of the global marine and polar programme at the IUCN, said: “The major causes of coral decline are well known. Looking forward, there is an urgent need to immediately and drastically reduce all human impacts [if coral reefs] are to survive in the decades to come.”

The picture for the world’s coral reefs is a bleak onewith scientists from the World Resources Institute predicting that by 2050 virtually all of the world’s coral reefs would be in danger. In the Caribbean, it is estimated that 75% of the coral reefs were in danger along with 95% of those in South-East Asia.

If you are planning on snorkeling in the near future and don’t wish to harm the reefs, it is important to note the following steps: (1) Remember that coral is alive; don’t step on or touch it and avoid stirring up sediment nearby; (2) don’t disturb or harass marine life; and (3) don’t remove marine life from its natural habitat or shells — and don’t buy souvenirs made from coral!

+ International Union for Conservation of Nature

Via Wanderlust

Lead Image: Beautiful view of sea lifephoto via Shutterstock

Other Images: Sharife and Jim Bahn