We are killing the oceans, and in so doing, threatening our own survival. “Unusually warm ocean temperatures this year have led to mass devastation of the world’s corals, and prospects for their long-term survival are grim,” Scientific American reports. “Right now, coral reefs around the world are either bleached, dead from bleaching or trying to recover from bleaching,” said C. Mark Eakin, who coordinates the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coral Reef Watch:
2010 has been a major, major year of coral bleaching in all of the oceans around the world.
At Newsvine, blogger Colorado Bob has been compiling the extent of this unimaginable catastrophe, finding mass coral bleaching events in the waters off of at least 15 nations, a direct consequence of mankind’s unchecked burning of fossil fuels. The extinction-scale event — caused by the oceans getting hotter and more acidic as storms grow fiercer — is occurring throughout the global oceanic basin, from the Caribbean to the Indian Ocean, from the Pacific Ocean to the Arabian Sea:
Fiji: There are cases of coral bleaching in the furthest islands in the Mamanuca Island group.
Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands and East Timor: More than 500 types of coral, living in the so-called coral triangle, are particularly at risk of dying out due to bleaching, according to Andrew Baird of the Australian Center for Coral Studies. The area covers roughly six million square kilometers (2.3 million square miles) of sea bordering Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands and East Timor.
Seychelles, Sulawesi, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia: The worst coral die-off in ten years – possibly ever – has struck across the Southeast Asian and Indian Oceans. The bleaching event extends from the Seychelles in the west to Sulawesi and the Philippines in the east and includes reefs in Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.
Madagascar: “The reefs around Mayotte have experienced the worst bleaching and mortality so far recorded in the Indian Ocean with over 50 percent of corals affected by the bleaching overall and up to 30 percent coral mortality at the worst-affected sites,” says Dr David Obura, Chair of IUCN’s Coral Specialist Group and Director of CORDIO.
Philippines: A severe wide-scale bleaching occurred in the Philippines leaving 95 percent of the corals dead.
Panama: “I’ve never seen bleaching like [it] in Panama,” said Nancy Knowlton, a coral biologist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama who has been studying the local flora for 25 years. She and colleague Hector Guzman have seen massive reefs die in recent weeks in the enclosed lagoon of Bocas del Toro in Panama after becoming coated with giant sheets of slime, the remains of dead microorganisms. “This is NOT a normal condition on reefs, even bleached reefs. Where last year there were healthy corals, this year there was only gray ooze,” she wrote in an e-mail.
Maldives: The Maldives is currently suffering the most serious incident of coral bleaching since the major 1998 El Niño-event that destroyed most of the country’s shallow reef coral.
Kuwait: A group of Kuwaiti divers has reported bleaching in more than 90 per cent of the country’s coral reefs – a sign that the coral is either sick or dead.
In an added insult, most of the deep-sea corals near the BP oil disaster have been killed by toxic goo.
“Despite only comprising about 0.2 percent of the area of the oceans, coral reefs host a quarter of all marine fish species and perhaps 1 to 3 million marine species in total,” writes Asia Sentinel’s Alex David Rogers. “In economic terms, they provide goods and services estimated up to $375 billion per annum. Around 500 million to 1 billion people rely on coral reefs for food, and 30 million of the world’s poorest people in coastal communities depend entirely on reefs as their primary means of food production and livelihood.”