Coral reefs impacted by bleaching, disease outbreaks, among others


A number of problems continue to plague the coral reefs in the Pacific.

In a report to the 35th U.S. Coral Reef Task Force meeting in Washington, D.C, chair Fran Castro of the U.S. All Islands Coral Reef Committee enumerated the issues faced by various areas.

“Coral bleaching from warming oceans, ocean acidification, Crown of Thorns Starfish outbreaks, ship groundings, coral disease outbreaks, invasive algae, land-based sources of pollution, and so many other things impact our coral reefs each day,” Castro said.

“Thankfully, the winter season brought cooler waters and much needed reprieve for our coral reefs, many of which have suffered back-to-back years of bleaching. However, in areas like southeast Florida, the number of corals impacted by an unprecedented disease event continues to grow and the cause(s) of the disease has yet to be identified,” she added.

For the CNMI, Castro reports that funding is needed for some of their priorities such as a Coral Reef Disturbance Response Plan as well as the removal of a derelict vessel in the Saipan Lagoon.

“In light of recent bleaching and typhoon impacts, a comprehensive, interagency coral reef disturbance response plan is necessary,” Castro reports.

“F/V Lady Carolina, which ran aground during Typhoon Soudelor and was then knocked over during Tropical Storm Champi…continues to cause damage to an inshore patch reef in the Saipan Lagoon,” she added.

Aside from the vessel, Castro said the typhoon has affected their projects and initiatives in the Commonwealth after it left the whole island without water and power.

“CNMI’s Bureau of Environmental & Coastal Quality (BECQ) as well as partner agencies have had to focus on recovery efforts, which has delayed various projects and ongoing initiatives. Additional funding and logistical constraints have limited the CNMI’s ability to conduct quantitative assessments of the damages incurred (particularly by Soudelor) in this past typhoon season,” Castro said.

Castro called on the agencies to work together and added that they are excited to work toward “a final USCRTF Strategy that will serve as our roadmap for the next five years.”

“We must stretch beyond the ‘status quo’ and work together, as federal agencies and jurisdictions, to make a difference now. The time is now and the opportunity lies with the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force,” Castro said.

Frauleine S. Villanueva-Dizon | Reporter
Frauleine Michelle S. Villanueva was a broadcast news producer in the Philippines before moving to the CNMI to pursue becoming a print journalist. She is interested in weather and environmental reporting but is an all-around writer. She graduated cum laude from the University of Santo Tomas with a degree in Journalism and was a sportswriter in the student publication.

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