16 March 2006

No serious coral reef damage after tsunami

Most Indian Ocean coral reefs which were hit by the December 2004 tsunami escaped serious damage, but their full recovery could be hampered by humans, the World Conservation Union warned on Wednesday.

A small number of damaged reefs may take two decades or more to bounce back, while some individual reefs may never recover at all, said the union and the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network in a joint report.

But most of the ocean's remaining tsunami-affected coral reefs could recover within five to ten years, provided the damage from human activities can be reduced, the report said.

"These human activities include over-fishing, deforestation and climate change," said Clive Wilkinson, an expert from the Australian Institute of Marine Science and one of the editors of the report.

The tsunami disaster, triggered by a 9.3-magnitude earthquake off the Indonesian island of Sumatra on December 26, 2004, killed about 220 000 people in 11 Indian Ocean countries.

It also wreaked enormous economic damage.

However, the report said, the physical impact on coral reefs in the Indian Ocean was patchy, depending on factors including the distance of the country from the source of the tsunami and existing condition of the reef.

Most of the damage to coral reefs resulted from backwash of debris and sediment from land, including from waste disposal sites, it said.

The report raised concerns about potential damage caused by efforts to revive the economies of tsunami-affected areas near coral reefs, particularly fishing communities.

In the aftermath of the disaster, the focus was on potential tsunami damage to coral reefs and the associated livelihoods for millions of people who lived and work near them, but unsustainable reconstruction efforts are now moving into the spotlight, the report said.

It pointed in particular to fears that replacement boats, motors and general fishing equipment often use different technology, often leading to inappropriate use and increased fishing, to the possible detriment of the reefs.

Source: www.iol.co.za


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