Coral Reefs Suffering from OverexposureAired March 2, 2000 - 6:27 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Around the planet, coral reefs are suffering from overexposure. The same beauty that attracts divers and tourists to underwater reefs is precisely what threatens their existence.
CNN's Natalie Pawelski explains.
NATALIE PAWELSKI, CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Some call coral reefs, the rain forests of the sea. Hubs of undersea life, home to at least a million plants and animal species. But coral reefs are in trouble.
JAMES BAKER, U.S. NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION: We have already lost something like 10 percent of our reefs, two-thirds of them are under great stress, and we expect that if we don't do something, we may lose another 30 percent in the next 20 -- 10 to 20 years.
PAWELSKI: A federal coral reef task force says that over the next decade, the U.S. should set aside 20 percent of its reefs as ecological reserves. The idea is to set up a series of no-fishing zones, from the Florida Keys, where one such reserve is already in the planning stages, to Guam, Hawaii and other U.S. territories in the Pacific.
DONALD BARRY, U.S. DEPT. OF INTERIOR: The concept is basically giving certain areas a rest, letting them become nurseries for regrowth and for restocking a fish population.
PAWELSKI: Around the globe, threats to coral reefs include overfishing, scarring from careless boats and divers, water pollution and disease. And predictions of warmer sea temperatures have scientists worried, too.
CARL SAFINA, LIVING OCEANS PROGRAM, NATL. AUDUBON SOCIETY: It looks possible that the die-offs of coral reefs are the first ecosystem-wide effects of global warming, where one whole ecosystem around the world, the coral ecosystems, are being affected by global warming.
PAWELSKI: Researchers say the world's coral reefs are worth hundreds of billions dollars a year, as tourist attractions, fishing grounds, coastal protection and sources for new medicines. Seen in that light, preserving coral reefs make sense for the economy, as well as the environment.
Natalie Pawelski, CNN.
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