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BREAKING: Global coral bleaching event confirmed by NOAA: severe impact on Coral Reef Communities

16 April 2024
by Larissa Sherman
BREAKING: Global coral bleaching event confirmed by NOAA: severe impact on Coral Reef Communities
©Derta Prabuning, Reef Check Indonesia

The fourth global coral bleaching event, announced today by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI), has already and will continue to have severe negative consequences for coastal communities and ocean health.

The global coral bleaching event, announced today by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI), has already  and will continue to have severe negative consequences for coastal communities and ocean health.  

The event announcement means wide swathes of tropical reefs in the three largest ocean basins – the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian – are experiencing extreme stress. Sufficiently severe or prolonged stress can cause coral mortality. The loss of coral has devastating impacts not only on ocean life, but on the millions of people who rely on these valuable ecosystems for food, livelihoods and coastal protection.

The Coral Reef Rescue Initiative (CRRI) operates in each of these Oceans, seeking  conservation of coral reefs that remain resilient and may recover under the right conditions, offering hope for the long-term health of coral reefs if immediate measures are implemented to curb future climate warming.  

In light of this global coral bleaching event announcement by NOAA, it is more important than ever to increase our efforts to protect specific reefs that have exhibited resilience to marine heatwaves and can help in the future to re-seed damaged coral reefs. We must focus on limiting pressures from overexploitation,pollution and over-development on these resilient reefs to enable their survival in a changing climate,” says Carol Phua, Coral Reef Rescue Initiative Lead.

Part of the solution to saving the enormously valuable reefs will involve working with coral reef-dependent communities in countries where climate-resilient reefs are found by building resilience to environmental, economic, and social stresses through diversified skills and sustainable and equitable economic opportunities.’ 

Many coastal communities have done little to contribute to climate change, but are vulnerable to the effects. 

We’ve experienced mass coral bleaching in 2010, then 2016, and this year. This year felt worse, as bleached coral not only occurs in its ecosystems, but also in our restoration structures. Restoration structures are one of our active conservation efforts, to revive coral reefs, providing a house for reef fish, and tourism attraction related to our local income. I really hope bleaching does not make coral die, if so our active conservation efforts like restoration would be in vain" says Nyoman Sugiarta, head of the community monitoring group for Bondalem's Locally Managed Marine Area and dive instructor in Bondalem village, Bali, Indonesia.

"Fiji, just like our counterparts in Indonesia, have also been receiving anecdotal reports from communities in various villages across the Great Sea Reef (GSR), especially from the 4 Provinces linked to the GSR. Fishers, both men and women have also witnessed the diverse white color in some coral species and were quite alarmed when advised that these are impacts of Coral Bleaching and high temperatures in the Ocean. These are reefs that are part of a Resilient Reefs Ecosystem for Fiji and as a critical part of the sustenance of our communities for their livelihoods, for their protein, traditionally linked as well as part of us as a people." says Margaret Vakalalabure, Fiji CRRI Manager
 

Media Resources: 

NOAA and ICRI Press Release: https://icriforum.org/events/fourth-global-bleaching-event/

Still images, video and interview recording from Bondalem's Locally Managed Marine Area, Bondalem Village, Bali, Indonesia. All footage and image credit: Derta Prabuning – Reef Check Indonesia (CRRI Partner); except interview (courtesy of Nyoman Sugiarta). 

For comment contact: 
Larissa Sherman, 
CRRI Communications Manager
M +61 412 005 600 (AEST, Brisbane Australia) 
E  lsherman@wwf.org.au 
https://coralreefrescueinitiative.org/ 

For comment on Fiji bleaching: 
Margaret Tabunakawai-Vakalalabure 
Fiji Coral Reef Rescue Initiative Manager, WWF -Pacific
Tel: + (679) 3315533 
E-mail: mvakalalabure@wwfpacific.org  
 

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