Location: Simons IMAX Theatre

Can We Save Coral Reefs and If So How?

Jeremy Jackson, Professor of Oceanography Emeritus at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Senior Scientist Emeritus at the Smithsonian Institution

Reef corals are declining worldwide. Climate change dominates the headlines, especially in relation to the recent mass bleaching and death of corals along the northern Great Barrier Reef and throughout the Pacific. But climate change is only half of the story. Up to now, the destructive impacts of climate change on reefs have been much less than the localized effects of overfishing, land-based pollution, and loss of habitats due to coastal development. A recent study of changes on Caribbean reefs over the past 50 years demonstrates that reefs with effective local protections and governance have double the amount of living coral, more fish, and clearer waters than reefs without protections. These new findings show that there are things we can do right now to help reefs recover. We need to stop all forms of overfishing, establish very large marine protected areas, and impose strict regulations on coastal development and pollution while at the same time working to reduce the use of fossil fuels. It’s not either/or, but all of the above.