Speaking at the weekly meeting of the Rotary Club Sunrise of Road Town yesterday (January 18),  Dr. Jarecki shared an eye opening presentation on the value of coral reefs but lamented the fact that the reef habitats have been suffering greatly over the past decades with no signs of recovery.

She cited consolidated research data from around the Caribbean, which shows an 80% decline in the coral cover over the past 30 years.

She summarized current knowledge about the diversity, distribution, economic value and conservation status of coral reefs globally and locally.

In a video presentation of the living reefs in the BVI, Dr. Jarecki highlighted the enormous variety of animal life which inhabit the reefs and pointed out how the reef benefits the country in the following ways:
•    Protection of our coasts from eroding waves.
•    Generation of rare beautiful experiences sold to tourists for profit.
•    Provision of large supply of delicious fish, lobster, conch and other sea foods.

She commented on the current state of BVI reefs saying, “not long ago 50% of the reef would be covered with living, growing corals, now only there is only a10% coverage”.

She listed the following primary causes of coral decline:
•    An increased prevalence of coral disease brought on by land-based sediment and sewage pollution.
•    Epidemics of coral bleaching in response to rising sea surface temperature.
•    Destabilization by haphazard, unregulated anchoring of boats navigating BVI waters.

Dr. Jarecki emphasised the need for public advocacy for reef conservation.

She also described an experimental coral restoration effort undertaken by the scientific team at Guana Island in which they “planted” Elkhorn corals on shallow reefs.  These had been decimated by disease.

She suggested that this method was simple enough to be undertaken by volunteers.

Coral reefs cover less than 0.1% of the Earth’s surface but host 25% of all the oceans’ marine species and provide 10% of all fish consumed globally.

Dr. Lianna Jarecki is lecturer at the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College.