Fishing is the most significant human impact to coral reefs. Destructive gear types such as fish traps and spearfishing, damage to habitats, capture of juvenile reef fish and unsustainable harvesting of top predators is leading to population collapse.  Export fisheries have led to losses of groupers, sharks, sea cucumbers, seahorses and other species.  Sustainable management of fisheries requires no-take reserves, environmentally friendly gear, limits on harvest and consideration of the role of certain species in ecosystem health.


Coastal development (left), sewage and nutrient discharge (center) and run-off (right) threatens reefs 


Coral collection for curios and aquaria from wild populations is destructive but it can be sustainable through mariculture

Coral reefs are undergoing a worldwide crisis due to a host of natural and human-induced stressors, and they are being lost at an alarming rate.  Unsustainable and destructive fishing practices, nutrient and chemical pollution, runoff and sedimentation, and coastal development are the most severe human threats.

Human impacts have increased due to population growth, especially as new technology has permitted more efficient extraction of reef resources.  These pressures are compounding threats associated with climate change - elevated sea water temperatures, increased storms, wider climate fluctuations, and increasing ocean acidification associated with rising carbon dioxide levels. 

From 2015-2016, tropical reefs were affected by one of the strongest El Niño events in history.  Record high water temperatures  resulted in mass bleaching and widespread coral death. This will have long-lasting negative repercussions to fish and other animals that rely on healthy corals.