A global report into 2,500 coral reefs involving research from scientists based in 34 universities and conservation groups shows some reefs to be in better shape than expected. The study offers conservationists a potential road map to save precious natural resources on our ocean floors. Jim Drury reports.
Coral reefs world-wide are endangered by over-fishing and climate change. But a new global survey found 15 unexpected 'bright spots' that could help conservationists plot a path to sustainability. SOUNDBITE (English) DR CHRISTINA HICKS, CO-AUTHOR OF STUDY, SAYING: "Bright spots are areas that are behaving better than you would expect, and this is a fundamentally different approach to conservation really because as conservationists we like to identify areas of extremely high biodiverse value and protect those areas, but this misses all the other places around the world that are in fact incredibly important to people who depend on those ecosystems for their livelihoods." Among the best performing reefs were the Solomon islands and Kiribati. Despite population pressures and high fishing levels there, far more fish than predicted were found. The Great Barrier Reef off Australia, the world's biggest reef, performed in line with expectations. But 35 'dark spots', from Jamaica to Tanzania, were identified, with fish stocks dangerously low. Areas where fishermen had access to freezers suffered the largest depletion of stocks. But those where local people depended on reefs for food and were involved themselves in their management performed best. SOUNDBITE (English) DR CHRISTINA HICKS, CO-AUTHOR OF STUDY, FROM UNIVERSITY OF LANCASTER, AT COMPUTER, SAYING: "I guess the key message that we found was even in areas where there are very high pressures there is hope for fisheries management if people are involved in the management process and if management can be culturally acceptable." The survey studied more than 2,500 coral reefs in 46 nations and involved researchers from 34 universities and conservation groups. Their findings were published in the journal Nature.