The canary in the coal mine of corporate greed and environmental destruction

Coral bleaching: The canary in the coal mine for corporate greed and environmental destruction

by Biosphere Expeditions 5 June 16:34 UTC

Bleached coral © Milan DeGraeve

The Reef Check Foundation, a partner of Biosphere Expeditions, has been confirmed for its coral reef citizen science work. The fourth global coral bleaching event is currently underway.

It’s an urgent wake-up call to the world, the second global mass bleaching in the last decade. As ocean temperature records continue to be broken, this represents a new reality of more frequent and severe bleaching events. Cycles of decline and recovery are normal for coral reefs, but bleaching events, which kill entire reefs, are now becoming more frequent and threaten the survival of coral reefs around the planet.

The value of patches

„A world without coral reefs would be a huge problem for humanity”, explains Dr. Matthias Hammer, Executive Director of Biosphere Expeditions, an international citizen science NGO leading wildlife conservation, „because coral reefs are worth an estimated €8 trillion every year to the fishing and tourism industries worldwide. Contribution and more than 500 million people worldwide rely on reefs for food, jobs and coastal protection.

The whole world is fighting a recession

For Biosphere Expeditions, these increasingly frequent and destructive bleaching events are nothing new. The NGO, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, has been working on coral reef conservation for decades with many innovations, achievements and successes.

In Oman, for example, Biosphere Expeditions citizen scientists found that coral reefs in Oman thrive in extreme conditions, such as high salinity and temperatures, that would be considered marginal and more challenging environments for coral reefs in other parts of the world. Indeed, this remarkable ability may hold the key to coral reef survival in the face of global warming and its devastating effects on reefs across much of the planet. And in Oman, Biosphere Expeditions citizen scientists collected data for five years before fishing was banned in 2013 in two secluded coral-rich bays of the Musandam Peninsula in Oman. In parallel, Biosphere Expeditions conducted an education and empowerment program for Omanis. This resulted in the historic first community-based reef studies and the creation of Oman’s first reef conservation NGO with two citizen scientist Omanis.

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In the Maldives, the NGO has been exploring an outstanding coral reef site known as 'Rastoo Madivaru’ for eight consecutive years since 2010, and was finally declared an MPA (Marine Protected Area) by the Maldivian authorities in 2019. Corals are resistant to the worst effects of bleaching and contain large megafauna such as sharks, manta rays, turtles and Napoleon wrasse. In addition, Biosphere Expeditions in the Maldives have shown significant reef resilience and have been instrumental in developing local community reef survey programs and education.

In Malaysia, reef expeditions to Tioman Island provided important data on coral reef health and human-induced threats within the Tioman Archipelago – data previously unavailable. It also helped form the foundation of 'Xintai Tioman’, a long-term plan to increase social and ecological resilience on the island.

Finally, in Honduras, Biosphere Expeditions helped the Cayos Cochinos Marine Protected Area manage and protect their coral reefs.

Corporate greed and environmental destruction: Rocks are the canary in the coal mine

„We have to do everything we can to protect the rocks of this planet,” Hammer says, „not just because we’re a canary in the coal mine, but we owe it to the people who depend on the rocks and reefs. To those who come after us, to sustain us, we only have one. There is only the planet.” Hammer continues, „Sure we as individuals can do our five bucks and people can come and help us fight the decline as citizen scientists, which is totally admirable, but in the end it will rule humanity in corporate greed and destruction. I think that trashing the earth and hiding money is not the perversion of capitalism. Admittedly we are facing now.”

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