March 24, 2008

Rough Seas Litter Caribbean Beaches With Coral

An Atlantic storm that kicked up huge waves reaching as high 30 feet has caused the beaches of Barbados to become littered with pieces of broken coral.  

Some of the white coral had washed up in chunks as heavy as seven pounds, with their polyps rubbed away by the rough surf.

Scientists reported Sunday that the amount of coral rubble on the island's coast may indicate damage to the region's coral reefs.

Leo Brewster, director of Barbados' Coastal Zone Management Unit, is organizing dives later this week to assess the damage.

"We think it's going to be pretty extensive," Brewster told the Associated Press. "I think we're going to see it across the Caribbean."

Last week's storm system ravaged coastlines from the Dominican Republic to Guyana, as a low-pressure system stagnated off the northeastern United States.

Several countries had reported flooding in coastal areas.  Thursday morning, a buoy north of the U.S. Virgin Islands measured swells of 15 feet, the highest since 1991, according to Shawn Rossi with the U.S. National Weather Service in San Juan.  

Reef-building coral provide a habitat for thousands of marine creatures, but coastal pollution, overfishing and disease caused by rising sea temperatures have caused them to die off.   


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Coastal Zone Management Unit