As go the coral reefs...

Half of the U.S.'s coral systems are dying, according to a 569-page report released yesterday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:

"...the nation's coral reef ecosystems, particularly those adjacent to populated areas, continue to face intense human-derived threats from coastal development, fishing, sedimentation and recreational use. Even the most remote reefs are subject to threats such as marine debris, illegal fishing and climate-related effects of coral bleaching, disease and ocean acidification."

On the good-news front, the report found that Pacific coral is doing better than Atlantic coral, but it found that 50% of Caribbean coral has died off in the three years since the last version of the report was issued.

Timothy Keeney, NOAA's deputy assistant secretary for oceans and atmosphere and co-chair of the United States Coral Reef Task Force told the Associated Press that 40% of all commercially caught fish breed in coral reefs, as do 25% of all marine species. The reefs "are a major indicator of something that could go wrong with the environment," says Keeney.

The report was released in conjunction with the 11th International Coral Reef Symposium.

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