Almost half the coral reef ecosystems in United States territory are in poor or fair condition, mostly because of rising ocean temperatures, according to a government report released Monday. The reefs discussed in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report serve as breeding grounds for many of the world’s seafood species and act as indicators of overall ocean health.
“They are a major indicator of something that could go wrong with the environment,” said Timothy Keeney, NOAA’s deputy assistant secretary for oceans and atmosphere. Keeney said 25 percent of all marine species need coral reefs to live and grow, while 40 percent of the fish caught commercially use reefs to breed. “If we lose the reefs, you lose a very significant and important habitat,” Keeney said.
Since NOAA’s last report in 2005, the Caribbean region has lost at least 50 percent of its corals, largely because sea temperatures have risen, Keeney said. – ap