No Matter How You Slice It, Humans Are to Blame for Coral Reef Decline

Oceans are the “canary in the coal mine” for climate change. Declining marine diversity, dying coral reefs and of course rising sea levels are all evidence that something negative is happening, and faster than we thought. Now, a new study focused on India’s Grand Récif of Toliara finds that it’s human activity, more specifically than the complex issue of climate change, that’s devastating the planet’s most treasured coral reef systems.

Most people are familiar with Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral reef system composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands stretching for over 1,600 miles off the coast of Queensland. India’s Grand Récif of Toliara, though smaller and less well known, is no less spectacular. Stretching for 11 miles off the southwest coast of Madagascar it was considered the richest biodiversity system in the Indian Ocean home to more than 6,000 species.

In the 1960′s and 70′s the Grand Récif was hailed as one of the most beautiful places, but since then the world has changed drastically. A rapid boom in human population has led to overfishing and a rise in destructive fishing practices. On land, vast areas of land have been cleared for agriculture and mineral extraction.

As temperatures have risen, and the soil rendered too polluted or infertile for cultivation, more and more people have been driven to the sea to seek their living. Some have turned to octopus hunting, which often leads to the trampling of precious coral reef colonies. Novice fishermen often attempt the practice using mosquito nets, which are harmful for both coral and seagrass. Compelled by the need to feed their families, these fishermen are only doing what they think they have too, and few have any comprehension of the long-term damage they’re causing.

The study, conducted by Assistant Professor Dr Jens Zinke from The University of Western Australia’s Oceans Institute, termed this vicious cycle of destruction “wicked problems” and said that mere regulations against them have proven futile over the past 50 years.

“A lot of people tried to do something about it and enforced fishing restrictions,” Dr Zinke said.  “But the problem got worse because people thought they were not involved and didn’t understand what was happening.  “Instead, 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.”


Related Reading:

Coral Sea Marine Life Wait For Australia’s Protection

Ocean Acidification Causes Baby Coral To Make Bad Decisions

Coral Reefs Found Dead Near BP Spill Site


Image via Thinkstock

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Katherine Wright
Katherine Wright2 years ago

Well, um, yes we are. Humans are the absolute worst of all the species with the destruction of this earth and anniliation of so many animal species. We continue to abuse, neglect, abandon, torture and murder animals by the millions and it makes me ashamed.

Sonia Minwer-Barakat Requ

Thanks for sharing

Carrie Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

Beth M.
Beth M.2 years ago

Humans are behind everything that is affecting the world negatively.

Natasha Salgado
Natasha Salgado2 years ago

We as a human species are a sad sack of potatoes. We are not worthy of living on this earth amongst such beauty. Thanks for the article.

mary r.
Mary R.2 years ago

The coral reefs are a special place so I hope we can stop the damage before it gets any worse.

a             y m.
g d c.2 years ago


Yvette T.
Past Member 2 years ago

Raising animals as "food" for human consumption is the most vile of all actions and the harmful effects impact every single facet of life on this giving gem of a planet as well as the spiritual progress towards our highest consciousness. We are going backwards and darkening a once bright and shining jewel. Choosing to take as little as possible while we are here is the right path...ORGANIC VEG'N is the only ethical road to walk down, as all masters have informed us.

Danuta Watola
Danuta Watola2 years ago

Thanks for posting this.

Alberta Gentleman

Makes me sick how mankind destroys everthing.