Coral Reefs: What About Them?

by Patricia Kotovich, TG Magazine youth journalist

What are coral reefs? Why are they important to us? If these are questions you can't answer, please read on!

Did you know that up to 3000 species co-exist on one single reef? Some consider these "rain forests of the sea" to be one of the most complex and diverse ecosystems in the world. They are found in over 100 countries in the tropical seas!

"What does this mean to me?" you may ask. Well, if you've ever been a tourist, owned souvenirs or ornamental products, eaten lobster or fish at a restaurant or taken certain medicines, you have depended on coral reefs!

If you enjoy the beauty of nature, you may be aware that coral reefs have always been one nature's most beautiful creations. "It was a sight to gaze at for hours and hours, and no description can do justice to it's surpassing beauty and interest" quoted Sir Alfred Walace in Indonesia in the 1860's.

Did you also know that these beautiful, vulnerable "jewels of the sea" that are habitat to so many essential life forms are in serious danger? 10% of the world's coral reefs have already been seriously degraded and many more are threatened, particularly in areas adjacent to human populations. Some of the biggest threats that challenge the reefs are: overfishing and destructive fishing methods, coastal development, sewage, fertilizer run-off and poorly managed boating, diving and other recreational activities.

Resulting from the serious decline in coral reefs globally, 1997 has been declared the "International Year of the Reef" (IYOR) This will become a project promoting collaboration and co-ordination between organisations and programmes with common interests and aims in reef management. Over 50 organisations are now involved in IYOR, although it has no central organization itself. Hopefully, 1997 will bring about international recognition of the importance of coral conservation.