The Caribbean‘s coral reefs have collapsed and are on the verge of dying, according to a new report released by the international Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The report comes after the most comprehensive study yet of the Caribbean coral reefs, showing that they are dying because of both overfishing and climate change, reports National Geographic.
The coral reefs have gone from 50 to 60 percent cover in the 1970s to less than 10 percent. Carl Gustaf Lundin, director of IUCN’s Global Marine and Polar Programme, stated that, “I’m sad to tell you it’s a dire picture.”
A lot of the decline is because of a massive die-off of sea urchins in the 1970s, most likely due to disease. Without the urchins, known as reef grazers, algae and grasses have skyrocketed, dominating reefs and pushing away corals.
If that wasn’t enough, overfishing of grazer species has allowed even more algae to take over, outcompeting the coral.
Ameer Abdulla, IUCN senior advisor on Marine Biodiversity and Conservation Science, stated:
“Coral reef communities are just like human communities—there are different roles that are fundamental to keeping the system going.”
NBC News notes that John Bruno, a University of North Carolina marine biologist who contributed to the new data, stated:
“Our preliminary analysis suggests that the state of Caribbean reefs continues to worsen, primarily due to ocean warming. To reverse this dire trend, job one is to halt the increase of greenhouse gas emissions.”
Along with the dire report, the IUCN recommended limiting fishing through catch quotas, creating/extending marine protected areas, and halting runoff from land of sewage and fertilizers. Carl Gustaf Lundin, director of IUCN’s Global Marine and Polar Program urged that the impacts on coral in the Caribbean must be “immediately and drastically [reduced] if coral reefs and the vitally important fisheries that depend on them are to survive in the decades to come.”