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Caribbean Sea reef system suffering pollution, tourism damage

Cancun, Q.R. – A new report from Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (Superior Council for Scientific Research) has placed the Caribbean Sea reef system within the 10 most threatened in the world.

The organization says that the reef system is exposed to more than 20 million tourists per year as well as almost a million more who both directly and indirectly, benefit from the system.

The World Wide Federation (WWF) did a study that concluded that approximately two-thirds of the Caribbean reef system had already been affected from two main elements, which were overfishing and sewage pollution.

According to the WWF, tourism is the largest and fastest growing industry in the world, with major environmental, cultural, social and economic implications. Although tourism can be an opportunity for sustainable development, poorly planned development of hotels and resorts in coastal areas can result in habitat destruction, pollution, and other negative impacts on biodiversity. In the Mesoamerican Reef, tourism-related coastal development is rapidly expanding south from Cancun into Belize and Honduras.

They also say that much of the coastal area surrounding the reef and nearby islands is low-lying and vulnerable to sea level rise from climate change. Eroding shorelines have already been documented, which can affect nesting and reproductive success of marine turtles. Rising water temperatures cause more episodes of coral bleaching, which is devastating to reefs and the wildlife that depend on them. And more frequent and intense storms are having a tremendous impact on communities.

The WWF also says that the reef system that runs from Cancun to Honduras is home to more than 60 types of hard corals that form habitats for over 500 fish species, five species of marine turtles and attracts one of the largest gatherings of whale sharks.

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