The world’s coral reefs are bearing the brunt of global warming. They have been dying out in vast swathes, and scientists have recently warned nearly all coral reefs could have vanished by 2050.
Rising sea temperatures and climate change are leading to what’s known as “coral bleaching” — when the organisms that make their home on the coral are literally cooked alive.
But the UK has now joined the global effort to step up and save the coral reefs.
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Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey announced on Monday that the UK is officially joining the Coral Reef Life Declaration, which pledges to conserve the world’s coral.
“Few people know the waters around the UK contain riches to rival the tropics — with our waters home to a vast array of cold water coral reefs that protect important marine life,” said Coffey, speaking from the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton.
“Through tapping into the UK’s world-leading marine science and working with our patterns across the Commonwealth, we will help to safeguard this vital habitat and protect our oceans for future generations,” she added.
The UK’s waters are home to coral reefs that are around 8,000 years old. The only known coral reef in English waters — the Canyons — has been protected as a Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) since 2013.
Off the coast of Cornwall, the Canyons MCZ covers an area of more than 650 square-kilometres.
There are also extensive reefs of the west coast of Scotland, including seven Marine Protected Areas. Meanwhile, Britain’s Overseas Territories are home to a huge array of tropical and cold water reefs.
As well as helping protect these reefs, the UK’s involvement will also support research into the threats.
The UK made the announcement just a week ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), a.k.a the Commonwealth Summit, to be held in London. It will see the leaders of all 53 Commonwealth countries arriving in the British capital to find solutions to some of the world’s most pressing issues — including protecting our marine environments.
The countries of the Commonwealth are home to nearly half of the world’s coral reefs — and over 250 million people living in the Commonwealth depend directly on coral reefs for food and income, according to a government press release.
So far, 12 countries have signed the declaration, which was launched by Prince Albert II of Monaco, in October last year in Malta. These countries include Australia, Fiji, and the Seychelles.
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