GENEVA - Caribbean coral reefs could disappear within 20 years as overfishing has all but wiped out the fish that feast on coral-smothering algae, the UN and an international conservation watchdog warned Wednesday.
Just a sixth of the original coral cover exists today in the region, which is home to nine per cent of the world's coral reefs, according to study by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the UN's environment agency.
The report warned that "Caribbean coral reefs have suffered massive losses of corals since the early 1980s due to a wide range of human impacts" such as overfishing, pollution and global warming.
In the past 40 years alone, 50 Caribbean reefs have been wiped out, the study showed, adding that "most Caribbean coral reefs may disappear in the next 20 years".
"The rate at which Caribbean corals have been declining is truly alarming," said Carl Gustaf Lundin, who heads the IUCN's Global Marine and Polar Programme.