After years of coral reefs being destroyed by illegal fishing methods, climate change, and high levels of pollution, Sri Lanka is left with only 10% of its live coral reef according to a new report.
The report was conducted by the countries state-run Marine Environment Protection Authority whom is responsible for observation on the health and wellbeing of the coral reefs surrounding the country.
Dr Terney Pradeep Kumara, General Manager of the marine authority told local media as that the island nation must take urgent steps to protect the remaining 10% of live coral reefs and the reefs need to be treated as “highly protected areas” and measures must be taken to move these live corals to deeper seas.
During a speaking event at a media workshop on Conservation of Corals and Marine Environment, Kumara also added that “Sri Lankans will lose the luxury of viewing colourful corals 10 years from now if urgent steps are not taken to stop their current rate of destruction. “
“The percentage of live corals in Hikkaduwa is about 7 percent. The Bar reef in Kalpitiya has suffered a severe coral bleaching event. In shallow waters down South, you can only see coral rubble now. Illegal fishing methods such as dynamiting have destroyed corals in Silavathura. Some patches of corals still remain in the Eastern waters such as in Pigeon Islands in Trincomalee, the newly gazetted Kayankerni Marine Sanctuary and Pasikuda. The pressure on these corals is also very high due to human activities such as tourism, discharge of industrial effluent, agriculture, aquaculture, discharge of municipal sewerage and squatter settlements. We need a collective national effort to protect the remaining live coral patches,” he explained.
Studies show that an estimated 2 percent of Sri Lanka’s 1,585-km coastline comprises reefs, in which corals grow on limestone, sandstone and rocky reefs. Additionally, reefs are important for fisheries, coastal tourism, and preventing coastal erosion in the country.
Kumara also explained a few other reasons for the dramatic decrease in coral. One of them is coral mining which accounts for 90% of the limestone produced in Sri Lanka even though this practice was banned in 1983. Another challenge reefs face is marine pollution, particularly plastic and polythene waste.
Coral reefs are some of the most diverse and valuable ecosystems on Earth. Coral reefs support more species per unit area than any other marine environment, including about 4,000 species of fish, 800 species of hard corals and hundreds of other species. As well, coral reefs buffer adjacent shorelines from wave action and prevent erosion, property damage and loss of life. Reefs also protect the highly productive wetlands along the coast, as well as ports and harbors and the economies they support
While efforts to conserve Sri Lanka’s coral reefs are currently on, it is unclear whether these maginicant and vital parts to an oceans ecosystem will be saved.