Southeast Asian Coral Reefs - State


For the past 50 years, the proportion of degraded reefs in Indonesia increased from 10 to 50%. From 1989 to 2000 reefs with over 50% live coral cover declined from 36 to 29%. Western Indonesia, which is more developed and holds the majority of the nation's population, faces the greatest threats to its coral reefs. Surveys concluded that reef condition improves from west to east. The percentage of reefs in good or excellent condition (live coral cover of 50% or more) is 23% in western Indonesia versus 45% in eastern Indonesia. 65% of surveys taken from the Maluku islands had evidence of bomb damage. In addition, reefs affected by land-based pollution (i.e. sediment discharge into reefs by deforestation, industry, sewage, and fertilizer) show 30-50% less diversity at depths of three meters and 40-60% less diversity at 10 meters in comparison to pristine reefs. The 1997-1998 el Nino event triggered widespread bleaching in Indonesia, with western and west-central Indonesia most affected. Bleaching was recorded in East Sumatra, Java, Bali, and Lombok. In the Seribu Islands northwest of Jakarta, 90-95% of coral reef from the reef flat down to 25 meters died. Two years later, the Seribu Islands significantly recovered, with live coral cover of 20-30% (2000). Coral reefs in Indonesia are located near Java (Batavia), Nusa Dua, Jakarta and Saribu.

30% of the Philippine's coral reefs are dead while 39% are dying. The news isn't all bad: Establishment of the Sumilon Island marine reserve has resulted in a marked comeback of fish in adjacent areas. Along with the establishment of the Sumilon Island marine reserve, there is hope for the Philippines via boosts in ecotourism. In recent years, local Filipino governments have discovered that fishing is not the only economic benefit the reefs can provide. They are confident that with a spread of ecotourism, even local fishermen will reap the financial benefits of this economic sector. A surge in coral reef conservation education is helping the tourism sector provide information to tourists on how to preserve the coral reefs while they enjoy the beauty and serenity of the reefs. The Philippines ecotourism sector is unfortunately stifled at this time due to a limited budget and there are approximately 7,000 islands to patrol for destructive fishing techniques. . Destructive fishing techniques are thought to be the largest contributor to reef degradation in the Philippines.

The first ever mass-bleaching event in the Philippines was reported in 1998-99. It began at Batangas, off Luzon, in June 1998 and then proceeded nearly clockwise around the Philippines, correlating with anomalous sea-surface temperatures. Most reefs of northern Luzon, west Palawan, the Visayas, and parts of Mindanao were affected. Subsequent mortalities were highly variable, with decreases in live coral cover ranging from 0.7 to 46 percent and up to 80 percent in Bolinao. Recent surveys in 1997 found a low percentage of reefs to be in excellent condition. They found only 4 percent of Philippine reefs in excellent condition (i.e., over 75 percent hard or soft coral cover), 28 percent in good condition (50-75 percent coral cover), 42 percent in fair condition (25-50 percent coral cover), and 27 percent in poor condition (less than 25 percent coral cover). The Visayas have experienced the most significant decline in coral cover, exhibiting an average of only 11 percent hard coral cover.

A study in the early 90's revealed that coral reefs are damaged by a variety of human activities such as household sewage, industrial waste, and agricultural chemicals from land that are washed to the sea. This was a new finding for the time period in which it was widely believed that the main damage to coral reefs was causes by oil spills or from pollution dumped by ships. This survey was concentrated on SE Asia mainly because it was believed that coral reefs in this region were at great threat of extinction if continued to be unmanaged. In the last thirty years climate change has had the most harmful effect on corals. (Hughes) Currently one of the major issues the Indonesian government is dealing with is climate change. (CIA Worldfactbook) When the ocean warms such as in El Nino, coral bleaching occurs, which kills the coral. (Hughes) The reefs are incredibly important to the economy and people of Southeast Asia. The reefs bring in $1.6 billion a year through fishing, employment, and the tourist industry. (Reefs at Risk in Southeast Asia Key Findings 2002) Today, the coral reefs located in the Philippines and Indonesia are in great danger. Fishermen are constantly practising dangerous methods such as blast fishing and dynamite fishing. These practices prove to be detrimental to the coral reefs as well as the marine life in the surrounding areas. Because of the dangerous methods, fish that are usually near the coral reefs are no longer there any more. Two of these fish are Groupers and snappers. According to David Nockels it was only seven years ago that 30% of the reefs were dead in this region and many more were dying.

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