Coral reefs, among the most valuable marine habitats for fisheries, are suffering. Overfishing, world climate change, and other stressors likely are contributing to their degradation and increasing susceptibility to disease.
One of the most recent examples comes from Hawaii, where a new disease has been found on coral colonies.
“This disease can spread fast and has the ability to kill a small coral colony within a week,” said Anne Rosinski, a marine resource specialist with the state’s Division of Aquatic Resources.
Additionally, the state reported that a “mass bleaching event” of coral colonies occurred last fall. Scientists don’t know if there is a direct connection between the disease and the bleaching, “though bleached coral is generally more susceptible to diseases.”
Here is what NOAA says about the value of coral reefs:
- The commercial value of U.S. fisheries from coral reefs is more than $100 million. In addition, the annual value of reef-dependent recreational fisheries probably exceeds $100 million per year.
- Coral reefs support more species per unit area than any other marine environment, including about 4,000 species of fish, 800 species of hard corals and hundreds of other species. Scientists estimate that there may be another 1 to 8 million undiscovered species of organisms living in and around reefs.
- Storehouses of immense biological wealth, reefs also provide economic and environmental services to millions of people. Coral reefs may provide goods and services worth $375 billion each year.
- Millions of people visit coral reefs in the Florida Keys every year. These reefs alone are estimated to have an asset value of $7.6 billion.
- Coral reefs buffer adjacent shorelines from wave action and prevent erosion, property damage, and loss of life. Reefs also protect the highly productive wetlands along the coast, as well as ports and harbors and the economies they support.