Coral Reeflections - Oceana USA
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January 21, 2009

Coral Reeflections

Last night, I arrived back at my rowhouse in northwest DC after walking five miles, biking four, and spending more than seven hours in the bitter cold to witness our new president take the oath of office on the national mall. Happily exhausted, I put my feet up and for the first time, watched several chapters of Planet Earth on DVD, including one called the Shallow Seas. If you’ve never seen the series, borrow it from your friend or sibling or aunt who’s been telling you to watch it. Like, tonight. The section on coral reefs is, like the rest of the series, visually stunning. Time-lapse footage shows polyps growing and receding. Bait balls are bisected by schools of predator fish; a school of sea serpents darts in and out of a reef’s crevices. “It looks computer-generated,” my roommate remarked. I was also reminded that one quarter of marine life relies on coral reefs, which are increasingly in danger from ocean acidification. And today, catching up on my ocean news, I read that a new report shows that “spawning of reef fish in southeast Asia’s Coral Triangle, which supports 75 percent of all known coral species in the world, has declined 79 percent over the past 5 to 20 years, depending on location.”The decline is caused by overfishing of reef fish, particularly the slow-maturing and desirable grouper, which can live up to 40 years and grow up to eight feet long.In his inaugural address, Obama said, “Each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.” Let’s hope our new president’s inaugural words on climate change translate into real action, otherwise the only coral reefs we have left might be the computer-generated variety.