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Coral Reef Policy

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Why Has there not been a push for international policies to help protect coral reefs?
Section 1:
Coral Reefs are an important ecosystem that our planet needs to function correctly. Coral is a living organism that forms in colonies which can stretch out for hundreds of miles long and are then called coral reefs. These coral reefs are habitats for a large number of marine species. There are about 600,000 km of coral reef worldwide (State of the Reefs). Most reefs today are about 8,000 years old, and there are records of some being as much as 2.5 million years old (Dimitrov). The ecosystems of coral reefs have the “largest (amount) biodiversity per unit of area on earth” (Dimitrov). Scientists have discovered 93,000 coral reef species; however some estimate that there could be from 950,000 to as much as 9 million different species of coral reef (Dimitrov). Coral reefs are the second largest ecosystem next to tropical rainforests on Earth. The deterioration of coral reefs is a huge warning sign for everyone internationally to implement more policies on coral reef conservation.
The problem that is happening internationally is the deterioration of coral reefs. Coral reefs are one of the most endangered ecosystems worldwide. For the first time in history they will be included on the World Conservation Union’s red list of threatened species (Oliver). According to the United Nations Environment Program and the Nature Conservancy, “around 30 percent of the world's coral reefs are already damaged, some irreparably. At the present rate of destruction, by the year 2050, a breathtaking 70 percent of the world's reefs will have disappeared” (Oliver). In regions such as the Indo-Pacific, where 75 percent of the world’s reefs are located, reefs are being destroyed at 1 percent a year, which is “twice as fast as the rate of destruction of tropical rainforests” (Oliver). There is a large amount of coral species and plant species that are at risk, along with “120 million people who make a living from the reefs” (Oliver). The endangerment of coral reefs is a problem that needs to be dealt with internationally because it affects everyone from the United States to the small Polynesian Islands.
In the early 1980’s, biologists, scuba divers, and environmentalists have had increased concerns about the problems with coral reefs (Dimitrov). Coral reefs have been suffering from coral bleaching, land-based pollution, habitat destruction, and overfishing. Coral reefs now must also contend with climate change, which has accelerated their global decline (Schmidt). This puts a large quantity of biodiversity at risk. The decline of coral reefs is not only disastrous to marine life, but to human health as well. Coral reefs globally provide “a quarter of the annual fish catch and food for about 1 billion people, according to the United Nations Environment Programme” (Schmidt). Reefs also “protect shorelines from storm surges, which could become more powerful as sea levels rise with climate change” (Schmidt). It will also affect tourism, “a mainstay of coastal economies in the tropics, worth billions in annual revenue could suffer if reefs lose their appeal” (Schmidt). Another important use of reefs is the source of medicines to treat human disease. “Two antiviral drugs vidarabine and azidothymidine, and the anticancer agent cytarabine were developed using compounds extracted from Caribbean reef sponges. Another product called dolastatin 10, isolated from the sea hare of the Indian Ocean, has been investigated as a treatment for breast and liver cancers and leukemia” (Schmidt). Numerous life-saving medicines and useful chemical products could be discovered in coral reefs one day. Caroline Rogers, a marine ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, said, “We have to save them (coral reefs) for economic, ecological, aesthetic, and even spiritual reasons; People need to feel connected with nature and with systems that are bigger than they are. Coral reefs are awe-inspiring we’re losing something that we barely understand” (Schmidt). These are reasons why many countries should be concerned and start thinking more seriously about the conservation of coral reefs.
Section 2: The endangerment of coral reefs started to become important in the mid nineties. There were a number of “unilateral, bilateral and multilateral state initiatives that were established to address this problem” (Dimitrov). The declaration of “the year of the reef” was in 1997. This established some public participatory ecosystem monitoring programs like the reef check and the reef environmental education network (Bischof). Even though there was a rise in public awareness in coral reef conservation, states were “unwilling to introduce a formal policy agreement on coral reef management” (Dimitrov). Coral reef conservation has not been a top priority internationally. Domestic law has been seen to be the most effective in addressing the problems concerning coral reefs. The reason for this is that there are two separate areas of action that need to be addressed. One is the protection of the reefs, and the other is pollution prevention (International environmental law and policy).
An example of domestic law being implemented is The Coral Reef Conservation Bill, and the amendments that have been passed in the United States have helped to protect coral reefs. This bill allows the “Secretary to comprehensively address the threat of marine debris to coral reef ecosystems by removing abandoned fishing gear, other discarded objects, and abandoned vessels from coral reef ecosystems.” It can also, “authorize the development of a vessel grounding inventory and identify measures to reduce threats to coral reefs including the acquisition and placement of aids to navigation, moorings, and fixed anchors,” and “prohibits damage to coral reefs, while providing specific exemptions for activities such as bona fide research, the use of fishing gear permitted under federal or state laws, and other activities authorized by federal or state laws.”
Some of the other things this bill does is strengthen the civil and criminal penalties from prohibited activities, provides a mechanism to recover costs and damages from responsible parties and apply it to restoration funds for coral reefs. It also establishes an International Coral Reef Conservation Program “that will address the threats to corals in waters outside U.S. jurisdiction of importance to the United States” (Hawkes). This is just one example of what is being done domestically. Many other countries are implementing policies such as Australia and small island nations around the world.
At the 1992 Earth Summit, coral reefs received some acknowledgement. In chapter 17, agenda 21, they identify coral reefs as “marine ecosystems exhibiting high levels of biodiversity and productivity and other critical habitat areas and should provide necessary limitations on use in these areas, through, inter alia, designation of protected areas” (International Environment Law and Policy). International efforts regarding coral reef degradation has been organized by the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI). Its members include Australia, France, Jamaica, Japan, the Philippines, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States, the United Nations bodies (UNDP, UNEP, UNESCO), regional organizations such as the South Pacific Regional Environment Program, the Coordinating Body for the Seas of East Asia, multilateral banks such as the World Bank, Inter-American Development bank, and NGO’s such as IUCN and the Alliance of Small Island States (International Environment Law and Policy). These countries and organizations have come together to organize agreements to protect coral reefs.
Section 3:
The worldwide degradation of coral reefs has been acknowledged by the scientific communities and policy makers. They know that this issue requires immediate policy response; however an “international legal regime on coral reefs is not on the global agenda, and no state considers it necessary” (Dimitrov). The lack of governance is a mystery since there are many positive factors to create an international treaty to protect coral reefs.
There are a few reasons why there should be no problem implementing an international policy. First, there are no interest groups that oppose policy action on protection coral reefs, and there should be more businesses that should be in favor of policies such as pharmaceutical companies and tourist ventures. Second, coral reef preservation has been described as a “win-win situation because measures to protect reefs bring additional benefits, such as development of tourism, reduced water pollution, and health benefits from improved sewage systems” (Dimitrov). The third thing is that the United States has taken the initiative and has been supported by other influential states like France and Japan. And the fourth reason is that there is such a small amount of states involved that it should be easy to come to an agreement (Dimitrov). These reasons do not show that there is an underlying conflict they actually prove that there is no conflict and that is what is so puzzling that there has been difficulty on coming to an agreement.
Rado S. Dimitrov tries to understand why there has not been any international action by using a few different theories. When discussing the Neo-Marxist approach to concentrate on corporate actors can be dismissed because no business group has disputed policies for protecting coral reefs, Dimitrov says that a “case could be made that companies who are against policies to combat climate change also account indirectly for the failure to protect reefs from bleaching. Yet, climate-related bleaching is only one of the many causes of coral decline, and no group from any economic sector has gone up against proposals to manage coral reefs sustainably” (Dimitrov). When discussing the realist approach and the emphasize on the implementation of power by state would also be dismissed because the “Realist approaches would be at least relevant if some states wanted a coral treaty although others opposed it; then realists could attempt to explain the outcome with state opposition. But, in this case, not a single state wants a legal treaty to begin with. Rich and poor, strong and weak states alike want the initiative to remain informal” (Dimitrov). These two theories show that there is no conflict and no reason why any country would refuse to sign a treaty to protect coral reefs.
There is one reason though that would explain why there has been no success in implanting an international policy, and that is science does not count in politics. Even though scientists have provided an abundant amount of input through official reports of multilateral assessments, “the conspicuous absence of even the desire to introduce an international legal regime may logically lead one to conclude that science is not a decisive factor in politics” (Dimitrov). Also, another reason for no international policy is that the research has “not provided the right kind of information” (Dimitrov). This gives a little insight to why there has been no push to have an international policy. Even though everyone agrees that coral reefs are in danger, policy makers have not seen anything they think is worthy enough to push for an internationally policy, this could be a reason why this issue is being dealt with domestically rather than internationally.
Section 4: One of the most common approaches that is being used to protect coral reefs right now is a reactive approach which “is to construct a list of current threats to reefs, prioritize them and tackle them individually. This approach needs to be replaced with a more proactive approach that can exhibit “integrative and flexible styles of governance and management that can deal with uncertainty and the risk of ecological surprises leading to phase-shifts. Legislation and policy need to focus on rebuilding ecosystem functions and bolstering ecosystem resilience to future disturbances, rather than maintaining the status quo” (Hughes). Some ways to do this would be to educate people about protecting coral reefs in developing nations, enforcement needs to be strengthened in the trade of corals, integrate the science with decision making especially with countries that rely on coral reef resources, and to confront climate change as one of the most important issues to reduce the degradation of coral reefs (Hughes). These recommendations could possibly help lead to an international policy instead of just being used domestically.
Another approach toward protecting coral reefs, which has been inefficient thus far, is to manage coral reefs by species to species and sector to sectors; this approach has not been able to protect coral reefs. The approach that would help is an ecosystem-oriented approach. This approach would include, “marine protected areas (MPAs), a family of spatially explicit marine management systems that includes underwater parks, fishery reserves, and wildlife sanctuaries” (Mascia). This approach would be a good solution to discuss regarding international waters.
Some countries are stepping up and enforcing bans, and no-go areas around coral reefs. Ireland is one country that wants the European Union to “introduce a permanent no-fishing area off its coastlines where 2,500 square kilometers of deep cold water reefs grow. Here the reefs are affected less by warmed waters and more by commercial fishing boats” (Oliver). The Philippines is another country that has had success with using no-go areas. As part of the Micronesia Challenge, “five nations and territories in the Micronesia region, including the U.S. territories of Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, have committed to conserve at least 30 percent of their near-shore marine resources by 2020. Caribbean nations and territories are following suit with a pledge to conserve at least 20 percent of their marine and coastal habitats by 2020” (NOAA). This commitment is a great success to conserving coral reefs.
Coral reefs are getting worse despite the efforts of more than 450 nongovernmental organizations. Researchers and managers need to be more aware of the positive feedbacks such as, “the self-reinforcing ecological, technological, economic, cultural and conceptual processes that accelerate the degradation of coral reefs” (Birkeland). Most research has focused on proximal causes such as “global warming, increased atmospheric carbon dioxide, overfishing, pollution, sedimentation, and disease rather than its ultimate causes, the increasing human population and associated economic demands” (Birkeland).
To stop the degradation of coral reefs, countries need to be more proactive. They also need to try and implement an international policy. Instead of looking at just the science concerning the health of our coral reefs, we need to start looking at the economic picture of the situation, and show how many people could be negatively affected if more damage is done to the coral reefs. Maybe that will finally be enough evidence to change the international behavior of informal negotiation to formal negotiation, and finally get some solid legislation to help protect the coral reefs all around the world.

Work Cited
1. Dimitrov, Rado S. "Confronting Nonregimes: Science and International Coral Reef Policy." Journal of Environment & Development 11.1 (2002): 53. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 5 Dec. 2010
2. Mascia, Michael B. "The Human Dimension of Coral Reef Marine Protected Areas: Recent Social Science Research and Its Policy Implications." Conservation Biology 17.2 (2003): 630. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 5 Dec. 2010.
3. Hawkes Jr., Elden. "UPDATE: LEGISLATION AND POLICY." Fisheries 32.12 (2007): 581-610. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 5 Dec. 2010.
4. Birkeland, Charles. "Ratcheting Down the Coral Reefs." Bioscience 54.11 (2004): 1021-1027. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 5 Dec. 2010.
5. Schmidt, Charles W. "In Hot Water." Environmental Health Perspectives 116.7 (2008): A292-A299. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 5 Dec. 2010.
6. Hughes, Terry P., et al. "Rising to the challenge of sustaining coral reef resilience." Trends in Ecology & Evolution 25.11 (2010): 633-642. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 5 Dec. 2010.
7. Oliver, Rachel. "All About: Coral Reefs - CNN.com." CNN.com - Breaking News, U.S., World, Weather, Entertainment & Video News. Web. 05 Dec. 2010. .
8. Bischof, Barbie. "Coral Reefs: Indicators, Threats, and Conservation Resources." Environment 49.10 (2007): 3-4. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 5 Dec. 2010.
9. "State of the Reefs - Global Perspective." NCDC: * National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) *. Web. 05 Dec. 2010. .
10. "International Environmental Law and Policy - Coral Reefs." American University Washington College of Law. Web. 05 Dec. 2010. .
11. NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program. Web. 05 Dec. 2010. .…...

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...Coral Reefs SCIN 136 Introduction to Oceanography, Week 7 Symbiosis is derived from “sym” which means together, and “biosis” which means to live. Coral is a terrific example of symbiosis, in that it requires another organism (the algae known as zooxanthellae) for survival and growth, and vice versa. I will discuss zooxanthellae, and how the symbiosis between it and coral is more efficient than coral relying solely on phytoplankton for as its main food resource. Almost all reef building coral require a very close symbiotic relationship with a certain type of algae known as “zooxanthellae” in order to thrive. These zooxanthellae inhabit the actual “flesh” of the coral, producing oxygen and also assisting in the waste removal process of the corals growth. In return, the coral protects the algae from the environment, and contributes various compounds required by the algae for photosynthesis. An interesting fact of this relationship is that zooxanthellae provides the coral with foods like glucose, glycerol and amino acids, which are created through photosynthesis. The coral uses these compounds to then produce proteins, fats and calcium carbonate to be used in its own growth process. This symbiotic relationship truly enables the efficient recycling of nutrients in rather nutrient poor tropical waters. Coral reefs react to their environment just like plants do, so they thrive in nutrient poor tropical water mainly because the waters there are relatively clear, and......

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Coral Reef Mitigation Plan

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