Coast KZN

11 Feb 2020

Scientists launch campaign to save SA’s endangered coral reefs

Thobeka Ngema (Daily News: IOL) Picture: Scientists are trying to save 11 different types of coral reefs in the western Indian Ocean. | SAAMBR

Durban – South Africa’s coral reefs are just as endangered as the rhino and the leatherback turtle, the Oceanographic Research Institute said this week as it launched a campaign to save 11 different types of coral reefs in the western Indian Ocean. Leading the campaign are scientists, including Dr Sean Porter from the Oceanographic Research Institute (ORI) who want to preserve the reefs for future generations and stave off a collapse.

According to the South African Association for Marine Biological Research (SAAMBR), this meant that scientists would have to apply strict criteria developed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to gauge the risk of a coral reef collapsing – the equivalent of a species going extinct. The reasons for doing this are to support conservation, resource use, and management decisions by identifying different types of coral reef most at risk of biodiversity loss and collapse using a unified standard.

“This will help the governments of developing nations prioritise their limited resources to key coral reef areas to ensure that the reefs continue to provide benefits to people such as protection from coastal erosion, seafood and tourism,” said SAAMBR.

“The team, led by Dr David Obura of Coastal Oceans Research and Development (CORDIO: East Africa), has been able to apply four different sets of criteria to the different types of coral reefs found in the ocean territories of 9 countries.”

The preliminary results were recently discussed at a workshop in Mombasa, Kenya. The assessments will have important implications for the people of the region who are so reliant on corals reefs. Losing them will be a humanitarian, economic and environmental catastrophe.

According to Marine Protected Areas SA, coral habitats are sensitive to activities that impact the seabed including bottom trawling, petroleum activities, mining and anchoring.