Coral reefs in the western Indian Ocean could die out by 2070 due to overfishing and warm temperatures, according to a new study. Roughly, 12 000 sq km of coral reefs along the eastern coastline of Africa and around Madagascar could face an ecosystem collapse.
According to IOL, a range of species and over a million people working in the fishing and tourism industry faces a great threat.
“When an ecosystem collapses, we might still see individual fish or corals but the whole system is no longer effective in supporting either marine biodiversity or communities who are dependent on it,” said David Obura, a Kenyan marine ecologist at CORDIO East Africa and lead author of the study.
These reefs make up about 5% of the planet’s coral reef area, reports Reuters. Published in the Journal Nature Sustainability, the study also found that warming temperatures were the main culprit, especially in the region’s island nations like Seychelles, while unsustainable fishing practices were the main issue when it comes to the mainland.
So far, 14% of the planet’s coral reefs between 2009 and 2018 have experienced mass bleaching events and marine heatwaves, according to the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association have reported that every decade for the past 100 years, the surface of the ocean has been warmed by a global average of 0.13 degrees celsius and absorbs excess greenhouse gas emissions.
Environmentalists are calling on governments globally to step up in ocean life protection and put an end to subsidies for the fishing industry which they claim have diminished wild fish stocks and has been the cause of marine ecosystems facing the brink of collapse.