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Report on Status of Coral Reefs Released

A disturbing report on the Status of Coral Reefs in the World 2004 has been released in Washington. The global study calls for communities involvement around the world and for a stronger political will to protect the oceans.

"Basically we are saying that 20 percent of the world coral reefs is virtually lost, most beyond recovery," said Clive Wilkinson.

Clive Wilkinson's gloomy assessment is that 70 percent of the world's coral reefs are threatened or destroyed. Mr. Wilkinson is coordinator and editor of the report, published by the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network. The comprehensive survey involved 240 scientists from 96 countries.

He compared the present survey with the one four years ago. "Last time, in 2000, we said 11percent of the reefs were seriously ill," he said. "Now we're saying 20 percent. And we're now putting predictions on that there is 50 percent of the world remaining reefs that are sick and in trouble. But also focusing on all new initiatives."

Mr. Wilkinson added that almost half of the reefs severely damaged by coral bleaching in 1998 are recovering, but he said other reefs are so badly damaged that they are unrecognizable.

According to the report the most heavily damaged reefs are in the Persian Gulf - 65 percent have been destroyed there - followed by reefs in South and Southeast Asia.

Brooks Yeager, vice president for global threats at the conservation organization World Wide Fund, listed what he sees as the threats to the complex ecosystem of the coral reef. "Over fishing, global warming and overall by increasing population," he said. "One of the great things of this report is that it notices the good things that are being done."

And those include preservation, ecotourism and good management of resources. The world's coral reefs may be sick, but they are not yet dead.