From: Alister Doyle, Reuters
Published September 8, 2010 07:01 AM

How to save the reefs

The world should safeguard coral reefs with networks of small no-fishing zones to confront threats such as climate change, and shift from favoring single, big protected areas, a U.N. study showed.

"People have been creating marine protected areas for decades. Most of them are totally ineffective," Peter Sale, a leader of the study at the U.N. University's Institute for Water, Environment and Health, told Reuters.


"You need a network of protected areas that functions well," he said. "It's important to get away from single protected areas which has been the common approach."

Fish and larvae of marine creatures can swim or be carried large distances, even from large protected areas.

That means it is often best to set up a network of small no-fishing zones covering the most vulnerable reefs, with catches allowed in between. Closing big zones can be excessive for conservation and alienate fishermen who then ignore bans.

Reefs from the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean are nurseries for fish and vital for food supplies since about 40 percent of the world's population lives within 50 km (30 miles) of the coast.

Climate change, pollution and over-fishing are among threats to reefs. Warmer oceans can damage corals, sometimes irreversibly. The U.N. University study is in a new handbook to help planners cooperate with marine scientists.

Photo by R. Greenway, ENN

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