Issues of the Water Planet
Marine Protected Areas - Whales - Fisheries
Addressing the US Senate Subcommittee on Oceans and Fisheries, The Cousteau Society's Science Advisor Dr. Phil Dustan recalled his work with Captain Jacques-Yves Cousteau in 1974-75 and subsequent years of reef study, urged Congress to strengthen protection of these ancient ecosystems.
See also: Task Force - Presidential memorandum
from Dr. Dustan's testimony:
"The reef is a structure of ancient ecological design. Its physical morphology, its orientation to the forces of the sea, and its community structure have been tested and molded by time and natural selection. Reefs have weathered global climate shifts, plate tectonics and dramatic sea-level change.
"The reef community has evolved into a fully integrated marine civilization superbly adapted to a nutrient-impoverished ocean. It is designed for the ultimate conservation of nutrients through symbioses and detailed trophic interactions has made it vulnerable to small external perturbations. This delicate complexity makes coral reefs vulnerable to changing environmental conditions, particularly temperature, sedimentation, increased nutrient concentrations, and over-harvesting.
"Ironically, the many values of coral reefs--as a fisheries resources, for coastal protection and building materials, and as tourist attractions--now are contributing to their steady and rapid decline and disruption of their biological integrity. We need to factor these realities into an approach for long-term reef conservation.
"As stewards of these valuable marine resources, the United States has a responsibility to continue to take steps to conserve coral reefs within its jurisdiction. Congress has enacted important legislation to meet this challenge, and supported the establishment of marine sanctuaries to safeguard coral reef ecosystems. More than ever, coral reef conservation efforts are essential to raise public awareness about the importance of humanity's impact on the marine environment before current trends become irreversible. Clearly, 'business as usual' is no longer acceptable if we are to conserve these critical resources for the benefit of present and future generations. We stand on the threshold but it is not too late to reverse the tide of destruction."
Dr. Dustan offered a series of recommendations compiled by The Cousteau Society to highlight opportunities for coral reef protection.
Recommendations for International Efforts to Protect Coral Reefs:
- Implement comprehensive national programs to address the root causes of coral reef decline as determined from scientific, sociological and economic information.
- Strengthen local and regional programs directed at coral reef conservation.
- Provide additional conservation incentives for states, territories or countries with coral reefs or watersheds that affect coral reefs. Focus attention on protecting the land-sea margin and the watersheds of coastlines and rivers by addressing forestry, agriculture and urbanization.
- Direct efforts at reducing the inputs of excessive nutrient, untreated or partially-treated sewage, sedimentation and other pollutants from forestry, industry, agriculture and urban development.
- Establish a program within space agencies to map and monitor the global distribution and health of coral reef communities and to identify potential hazards. The information should be combined with standardized field sampling and made widely available and distributed on the Internet.
- Promote the establishment of marine protected areas and strengthen support for applied scientific study and monitoring, especially in core nursery and recruitment zones, so that coral reefs can be sustained for future generations.
- Ensure that the knowledge and means for coral reef management is transferred to tropical developing nations where most of the world's coral reefs are located.
- Focus on the design and implementation of best practices for coral reefs at regional and local scales.
- Continue and strengthen support and resources for the International Coral Reef Initiative. Support full implementation of the Biodiversity Convention and the Jakarta Mandate on Marine and Coastal Biodiversity, along with other international agreements on marine protection and conservation.
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