Thursday, September 23, 2021

Coral reef conservation program implemented off Mexican Pacific coast

La Paz, Mexico, Sep 26 (EFE).- Mexico’s National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP) and the organization Wildcoast (CostaSalvaje) are implementing a conservation program to protect coral reefs on the Pacific coast, which are dying at an alarming rate.

Climate change, ocean acidification and unregulated tourism are some of the main factors affecting coral reefs in Mexico, Hector Reyes, a researcher at the Autonomous University of Baja California Sur, told EFE.

The marine biologist pointed to findings showing that coral skeletons are 20 percent less dense than 20 years ago, which means they are not depositing the same amount of calcium carbonate as before.

“The effects of climate change are becoming more evident. Corals are finding it harder to deposit calcium carbonate, also in part because the water is very acidic,” Reyes said.

Adapting to changes in temperature and to the acidity of the Pacific Ocean is not easy for corals.

“Corals as a population are slowly adapting to changes. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t,” the researcher said, adding that some corals become bleached and die, while others may adapt in time, even after becoming bleached.

Considering that climate change is a global phenomenon and that the Pacific Ocean is particularly acidic, Reyes said the only possibility is to implement conservation measures.

It is for this reason that CONANP and CostaSalvaje have set up anchorages for mooring buoys in the Espiritu Santo Archipelago national park, as they did before in Huatulco and Cabo Pulmo, as well as on the Guanahacabibes Peninsula, in Cuba.

“We are setting up mooring buoys so that boats can avoid casting their anchors, which can kill and damage these structures (the corals),” Gabriela Ang Montes de Oca, a marine biologist for CostaSalvaje, told EFE.

Another program that is being implemented involves working with tourist service providers who take visitors to explore the coral reefs.

This is done “through workshops on issues such as good tourism practices, community-based surveillance and nautical management,” the biologist said.

“Bad tourism practices include people who snorkel in areas that are shallow enough for them to step on, touch and even kick some of the corals,” Rebeca Melendez, CostaSalvaje’s coral reef program coordinator, told EFE.