Geneva: In 20 years' time, most of the Caribbean coral reefs may disappear, since what is left of them currently does not exceed one-sixth of the original coral cover, according to a report published by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) on Wednesday.
The report lists the population explosion along the coast lines, overfishing, the pollution of coastal areas, global warming and invasive species among the main reasons that have put Caribbean coral reefs in danger of extinction.
The report was prepared in cooperation between the UNEP, Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
It is the result of the work of 90 experts who studied corals, seaweeds, grazing sea urchins and fish.
The experts agreed that 50 percent of the Caribbean sea coral cover has disappeared since the 1960's.
"The rate at which the Caribbean corals have been declining is truly alarming," said Carl Gustaf Lundin, Director of IUCN's Global Marine and Polar Programme.
"But this study brings some very encouraging news: The fate of Caribbean corals is not beyond our control and there are some very concrete steps that we can take to help them recover," he added.
According to the report published in the UNEP website, "restoring parrotfish populations and improving other management strategies such as protection from overfishing and excessive coastal pollution could help the reefs recover and make them more resilient to future climate change impacts."
Parrotfish were brought to the brink of extinction due to overfishing throughout the 20th century, something which the experts find as a reason which led to coral decline in the region.
The disappearance of parrotfish broke the natural balance of coral reefs when algae, the species' food, were allowed to smother the reefs.
It is necessary to take action to address overfishing and pollution, with the aim of contributing to the restoration of these reefs and making them more able to adapt to climate change caused by the high temperature of the sea water, said the report.
Climate change is the most prominent threat to coral reefs, as it raises the level of acidic ocean waters that cause coral bleaching.
The report is based on an analysis of 35,000 surveys taken from 90 different locations in the Caribbean.
The study concluded that the corals which have suffered the most tragic declines are those in Jamaica, along the shores of the US state of Florida, as well as the US Virgin Islands.
The Caribbean region is home to nine percent of the world's coral reefs, which can be found in the waters of 38 countries, generating vital revenues for local economies.