Coral reefs are under threat...
Coral reefs occupy a tiny fraction of the sea. All the world's tropical reefs put together can be fitted into an area no larger than the British Isles, yet they are home to more than a quarter of all known marine fish species, over 800 different types of reef building coral and hundreds of thousands of other exotic species.
Apart from this immense biological diversity, coral reefs are also of high value for fisheries, coastal protection and nature-based tourism. But these values are in serious danger of being lost. Scientists estimate that 19% of reefs have already been destroyed and another 35% could be lost within 10-40 years as a result of over-exploitation, destructive fishing practices, coastal development, tourism pressure and marine pollution.
In addition, all coral reefs are at severe risk of death and damage from increases in seawater temperature and acidity due to global climate change.
What needs to be done?
MCS wants to see increased awareness of the importance of the world's coral reefs. It is vital people realise that these unique and valuable ecosystems are facing an unprecedented crisis because of global climate change and other threats. We need to help reefs recover from decades of over-exploitation and work to improve water quality and reduce the risk of disease.
The problems are well understood but solutions are not always simple to implement. We want to see commitment to coral reef protection at all levels - from local communities, conservation organisations, fishermen, the tourism industry and governments.
MCS in Action
Coral reef conservation is an important focus for MCS because of the global importance of tropical reefs and because the UK has direct links with coral reefs through international trade and tourism. Our UK coral reef programme concentrates mainly on increasing understanding of coral reef conservation issues and promoting awareness about trade in coral reef species and the importance of responsible reef-based tourism.
Our overseas programmes are currently running in Malaysia, the Maldives and other Indian Ocean countries, and focus on education and awareness, management of marine protected areas and sustainable use of reef resources.
How can you help?
Even though tropical reef-building corals are found a long way from UK shores, there are ways you can help to protect them. If you are planning a coral reef snorkelling or diving holiday, then check out the MCS coral code for visitors. Once at your destination, there may be opportunities for you to volunteer for reef conservation activities such as reef clean-ups or survey programmes.
You can also be a responsible consumer. There are shops both in the UK and overseas that sell coral reef species, including fish to eat, tropical marine fish for aquariums and shells for souvenirs. MCS recommends that you consult the MCS guidelines and think carefully before buying.
Ask the shopkeeper about where the items have come from and how they were collected, and if in doubt, don't buy. Instead donate to MCS - your contribution to our work will make a difference and enable us to do more.
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