The Caribbean has lost 60 per cent of its coral reef over the last 30 years or so. Bonaire has only lost 30 per cent
Bonaire: the last healthy coral reef in the Caribbean
4th January, 2011
Over the past 30 years, the Caribbean’s corals have been decimated by overfishing, disease and pollution. Last Summer’s heat spell raises the question: can the remaining corals survive global warming? The answer may lie in Bonaire, home to the region’s healthiest corals
The giant star coral seems to appear out of nowhere as we swim slowly along Bonaire’s northwestern coast about 12 metres below the surface. Standing seven metres tall on a steep slope, it is a deep, rich green, shaped like a pile of Darth Vader helmets, each with an overhang under which lurks a metallic-red squirrelfish or a dainty damselfish. All around us, soft corals and sponges rise like bushes in shades of purple, ochre and green while aquamarine parrotfish nibble at algae.
Andrew Bruckner, a coral biologist leading an intensive survey of Bonaire’s reefs, waves at me to emphasise the star coral’s size and raises a thumb to indicate how healthy it is. 'This is one of the last places in the Caribbean where you can see really big star corals,' says Bruckner, the chief scientist of the Washington-based Living Oceans Foundation, after we get to shore. 'That one is probably 600 to 800 years old.'
An estimated 60 per cent of the Caribbean’s living coral cover has disappeared in the last 30 years. But Bonaire has only lost 30 per cent. 'Bonaire’s reefs are in better shape than any Caribbean island by far,' says Bruckner. 'The big question is why?' This year, he and a team of...
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