95% of Southeast Asia’s coral reefs at risk
Climate change, overfishing and pollution are threatening almost 95% of Southeast Asia’s coral reefs, according to a new study. The World Resources Institute’s (WRI) ‘Reefs at Risk Revisited’ report found that the Southeast Asia is the world’s most severely threatened region, with 95% of reefs found to be at risk, and 50% in the high or very high threat category. Indonesia, second only to Australia in terms of total area of coral reefs, has the region’s largest area of threatened reef, followed by the Philippines. The WRI cited overfishing as the main threat to the marine ecosystems in Southeast Asia, followed by pollution and coastal development.
In the Indian Ocean region, more than 65% of reefs are at risk from local activities, with nearly 35% severely threatened. The Maldives has the largest area of reefs under low threat in the region. In the wider Pacific region, almost 50% of reefs are currently considered threatened, with about 20% rated as high or very high risk. Overfishing and run-off from land-based sources are the predominant threats, though coastal development is also a major pressure in some areas. On a positive note, Australia’s reefs are the world’s least threatened, with an estimated 14% at risk from local activities and just 1% facing a serious threat.
Globally, more than 60% of the world’s reefs are under immediate and direct threat from one or more local sources. The WRI cited overfishing being the biggest threat, affecting more than 55% of the world’s reefs. Coastal development and watershed-based pollution each threaten about 25% of reefs.
“If we continue down this path, all corals will likely be threatened by mid-century, with 75% facing high to critical threat levels,” former US Vice President and environmental campaigner, Al Gore, said in the report. “If we fail to address the multiple threats they face, we will likely see these precious ecosystems unravel, and with them the numerous benefits that people around the globe derive from these ecological wonders. We simply cannot afford to let that happen,” he added.
More than 275 million people live in the direct vicinity of coral reefs, with small-island states in the Pacific region named as among the most reef-dependent. At least 94 countries and territories benefit from reef tourism, and in 23 of these, reef tourism accounts for more than 15% of national GDP.