Increasingly frequent severe coral bleaching is among the greatest threats to coral reefs posed by climate change. Emissions scenario RCP4.5 represents lower emissions mid-century than will eventuate if pledges made following the 2015 Paris Climate Change Conference (COP21) become reality.
Are we doing all we can to safeguard our most valuable natural asset?
The Mesoamerican Reef (MAR) provides a diverse array of valuable goods and services to the people of Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and México. The leaders of these four countries, officially recognized their shared vision and commitment to conserving the >1000 km of coral reef in the Tulum Declaration of 1997, followed by the 2007 declaration of March 10 as “Mesoamerican Reef Day”.
Today, we celebrate Mesoamerican Reef Day 2016 by recognizing our partners in our collective progress in protecting this valuable resource and identifying priority management actions still needed to safeguard our reefs for future generations.
Over the last 10 years the Healthy Reefs Initiative has published four Report Cards on the Health of the Mesoamerican Reef. These reports have described a mixture of declines and recovery in coral reef health. The declines stem in part from inadequate management of local pressures and threats. The purpose of the 2016 Eco-Audit is to catalyze faster, more effective management responses and to increase accountability within the public and private sectors, and among non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
2015 Report Card
The 2015 Report Card for the Mesoamerican Reef is based on a new study of 248 coral reef sites along 1000 km of the Caribbean coasts of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras, which were monitored for living coral cover, fleshy macroalgal cover, herbivorous fish biomass (parrots and surgeonfish) and commercially important fish biomass (snappers and groupers).
“Given the growing scientific concern about coral reefs and the general decline in fish stocks globally – our measureable improvement in the condition of the Mesoamerican Reef, particularly fish populations, is encouraging”, says Dr. Melanie McField, Director of the Healthy Reefs Initiative / Smithsonian Institution.
“The exciting news that Guatemala has recently joined Belize and the Bay Islands of Honduras in banning the fishing of parrotfish is another critical step for the long-term conservation and recovery of corals on Mesoamerican reefs. Protecting herbivores of all kinds is critical to this endeavor. Congratulations to the Healthy Reefs Initiative for helping to promote this impressive effort, which I encourage other countries in the Caribbean to follow.” says Dr. Jeremy Jackson of Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Smithsonian Institution.
“You must be doing something right, because here, there are plenty of reasons for hope. Cordelia Banks, off Roatán, Honduras, is one of the best places I have seen, even counting 50 years ago, an amazing stand with acres of staghorn coral.” stated Dr. Sylvia Earle, founder of Mission Blue.