Humans to Blame for Coral Reef Destruction

Written by on January 16, 2013 in Coral Reefs, Marine Life
Tolaria, Madagascar.

Tolaria, Madagascar. Photo credit: Franck Vervial via photopin cc

A new study found that human activity, not climate change, is responsible for the damage of a southern Indian Ocean coral reef system, the Grand Récif of Toliara (GRT).

The GRT is a 19km stretch of coral reef, similar to the Great Barrier Reef, found off the coast of southwest Madagascar.

“It’s quite devastating what happened to the reef, it was a really beautiful place in the 1960s and ’70s, but somehow it became totally degraded,” said Assistant Professor Dr. Jens Zinke, from The University of Western Australia (UWA)’s Oceans Institute.

There has been a “wicked” set of problems over the last 50 years, including environmental factors such as a one degree rise in temperature and lower rainfall, and human-based factors like overfishing and destructive fishing practices. One particular destructive method involves fishing with mosquito nets, which are harmful to corals.

“These sorts of pressures have been labeled ‘wicked’ problems because they are complex, persistent and challenging to solve,” explained Dr. Zinke.

They found that “no take” zones were not effective because most people didn’t understand what was going on. Dr. Zinke explained that some people tried to enforce the rules, but they were mostly unsuccessful.

“We found there has to be a community-based stakeholder process to get people to change the way they live and fish, and so protect the environment and give them a better future.”

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Copyright © 2013 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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