June 22, 2006

Only 2 pct of coral reefs properly protected: study

By Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent

OSLO (Reuters) - Less than 2 percent of the world's
tropical coral reefs are properly protected from illegal
fishing, mining or pollution despite government promises of
wider safeguards, an international study showed on Thursday.

"The figures are depressing," said Camilo Mora, a scientist
at Dalhousie University in Canada and lead author of the study,
carried out in New Zealand by researchers from seven nations.

"Many countries create marine protected areas and then
forget about them," he told Reuters of the findings, published
in the journal Science.

Lack of protection may mean a further shrinking of reefs
worldwide, from the Caribbean to the Indian Ocean. Reefs are
key spawning grounds, are home to species from clown fish to
sharks, protect coasts from erosion and also draw scuba-diving

"Less than 2 percent are extended protection complete with
regulations on extraction, poaching and other major threats,"
the report said.

Overall, 18.7 percent of the area covered by tropical reefs
was within marine protected areas -- but most of the
conservation was only on paper. "Lines on the map are not
enough to protect the world's coral reefs," Mora said.

Many governments have promised wider conservation of nature
from reefs to rainforests, partly to help meet a U.N. goal of
slowing an accelerating rate of species loss by 2012.

"While management (of marine protected areas) varies
worldwide, it was particularly low in areas of high coral
density such as the Indo-Pacific and the Caribbean," said
Ransom Myers, a researcher at Dalhousie University.

The study did not name the nations performing worst or best
in reef protection. Mora said, however, that Australia had
successfully increased protection for much of the Great Barrier

The scientists reached their figures by building a database
of protected areas from 102 countries then comparing it with
the extent of reefs, partly mapped by satellites. They then
surveyed more than 1,000 managers of protected areas and
scientists to gauge the conservation performance.