Magazine article ROM Magazine

Anchors Away: The Fix for One Threat to the World's Delicate Reefs Is Well within Reach

Magazine article ROM Magazine

Anchors Away: The Fix for One Threat to the World's Delicate Reefs Is Well within Reach

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Coral reefs--one of the Earth's most spectacular ecosystems--constitute less than 0.1 percent of the oceans' total area. Yet these systems teem with biodiversity. Some 100,000 species of plants and animals, including fishes, living in reef habitats have been named to date, and the total is thought to be 5 to 20 times that number.

Numerous threats to the well-being and continuing existence of these lively ecosystems are documented: coral bleaching, inshore pollution, and dynamiting for fish, for instance. Few of these threats are amenable to "quick-fix" solutions. But there is one threat that is remedied easily enough. Dive-boat anchors create enormous damage to the reef top's delicate stony corals.

The awe-inspiring beauty of coral reefs makes them a prime destination for scuba-divers. And because many of the most spectacular reefs occur in the world's poorest countries, they provide a much-needed source of income for local peoples. In several tourist areas in the islands of Palau alone, 20 or more boats full of divers are active each day. Since corals are very slow-growing, repair of the damage caused by even a single anchor on a single dive site can take years. One can easily imagine the damage created by dozens of anchors dropping onto the delicate corals every day.

Fortunately, many communities offering tourist diving have seen the wisdom of preserving the spectacular life that enables them to earn a living. …

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