The disappearing reefs

While ravaged rainforests have rightly held world attention, the
growing destruction of the world’s coral reefs has garnered little
note. Yet the reef ecosystem is the mother lode of the ocean’s
biological diversity, and when it dies, many of the world’s watery
species will go with it.

The prime killer is cyanide. To satisfy the massive demand for
fresh reef fish, divers are using sodium cyanide to increase their
catch. They squirt the deadly chemical at fish, or simply dump
barrels of it in prime fish reefs. The sought-after large fish are
stunned and easily captured, while the cyanide kills smaller fish
and other marine life. The poisoned coral — some of it hundreds of
years old — dies, and many reefs are becoming ‘the equivalent of a
clear-cut forest,’ reports a Nature Conservancy biologist in New
. Cyanide fishing threatens one-third of the world’s
biologically richest reefs.

Fish diners, mainly in Taiwan, China, the Philippines, and
Japan, pay premium prices, as much as $1,000 for a plate of
humphead wrasse lips. The divers, mainly poor coastal people, find
the lucrative trade hard to resist.

Marinelife Alliance
is pressing for stronger regulations and is
spearheading efforts to teach divers sustainable methods such as
net fishing and alternative revenue sources such as fish

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