|Image courtesy U.S. National Park Service|
Most news about The Planet's coral reefs for the last 70+ years has been alarming to say the least. Today we have some good news that may portend some later better news. All is not gloom and doom under the sea. A new study recently published in the journal NATURE surveyed about two thousand coral reefs and identified 35 reefs in apparent deep trouble and "15 bright spots" reefs doing about twice as well across a variety of measurements as "the norm". All 15 "bright spots" had human populations living near the reefs that depended at least in part economically on the fish life of the reef. What these populations had in common was a respect for the reef as an ecosystem, and cultures that attempted to regulate the reef related economic activity in such a way as to allow harvesting of reef products while preserving the reef's overall reproductive capability. Often the local fishermen themselves work as the enforcement officers for the reef rules whether they are "regulations" or traditional "taboos".
Regardless of what the rules are called, or who enforces them or how, the common factors seem to always include provisions against physical damage of the coral. The regulated activities include; anchoring, dredging, and diving activities that may include harvesting of physical coral and sponges. These activities are not always prohibited in all portions of the "bright spot reefs", or at all times, but are regulated in diverse ways to the same effect; physical damage to the coral, pollution, and over fishing are prevented. Human impact and economic benefit are allowed, but the impact on the reproductive capacity and physical integrity of the reef is kept low.
According to the study's authors:
"Our results suggest that investments in strengthening fisheries governance, particularly aspects such as participation and property rights, could facilitate innovative conservation actions that help communities defy expectations of global reef degradation,"
Good news for coral reefs indeed. Read the Report