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Commonwealth nations to protect coral reefs with satellite technology

10 June 2020 | Mitigation

 

Commonwealth countries are to gain free access to satellite technology that will help them monitor and protect their endangered coral reefs from threats such as climate breakdown, overfishing and pollution.

Commonwealth countries hold nearly half of the world’s remaining tropical coral reefs, with 47 out of the 54 member countries having a coastline. Nearly half of them are islands or groups of islands, which face particular threats from the climate crisis, and for whom coral reefs are often vital protections against storms as well as fish nurseries and tourist attractions.

“Whatever we do as a Commonwealth family will make a massive contribution to safeguarding the coral reefs that we are dependent on globally,” said Baroness Patricia Scotland, secretary general of the Commonwealth. “We feel this real responsibility around the world. The Commonwealth can change the trajectory of this crisis, if our members are willing to work together, and we will.”

Nearly all the reefs are at risk of extinction in the coming decades as the climate crisis takes hold, and nearly half of the world’s reefs have already been destroyed or badly damaged in the last 30 years owing to changes in the climate, overfishing, pollution and other exploitation. About 250 million people are directly dependent on coral reefs for their livelihoods.

The technology will use high-resolution satellite images and data analyses to allow marine scientists, government officials and policymakers to monitor the health of coral reefs and take the action needed to protect them. Software will be provided to countries free through the Commonwealth’s partnership with Vulcan Inc, a US-based group founded by Paul Allen, and a new interactive coral reef map will be hosted online at the Commonwealth Innovation Hub.

“[Countries] need data to know what they can do within their tight budgets,” Scotland told in an interview. “Being able to share information will galvanise us.”

She said the climate and ecological crises, as well as the coronavirus pandemic, required urgent action, and the health of the oceans was a key part of the global ecosystem. “The world is saying to us, ‘I can’t breathe,’” she said. “When we stop [exploiting it], nature restores itself very rapidly. But we have not got a lot of time.”

The Commonwealth will open up a demonstration of the project on World Oceans Day, as countries around the world seek to improve the management of their own waters and the high seas.

In the UK, the government on Monday published a review of ocean protections that has recommended setting up new highly protected marine areas, where fishing, dredging, oil drilling, construction and all other forms of exploitation would be banned.

 

Source: The Guardian