Downs said he’s already seen serious depletion of corals in Hawaii, as well.
“Maui is a great example: The entire west coast used to be coral reefs 40 years ago, but now they’re only at the north and south poles of the island,” he said.
In addition to climate change, he blames pollution, including from sunscreen that humans use, agricultural runoff and sewage from resorts for making the waters more toxic.
The coves and bays around the coral reefs are beautiful and draw tourists — but that increase in human activity is also what’s hurting the environment, Downs said.
“Climate change guarantees its extinction in 150 years,” he said in general of the reefs.
Downs, an Oahu native and the executive director of the environmental lab Haereticus in Virginia, said he supports legislation in Hawaii that would ban sunscreen that contains the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate as well as enforce greater pesticide control.
The chemicals are so bad, he said, that he’s heard stories of them tainting waters in the Caribbean as well. Fish are sullied by an unnatural coconut flavor — or whatever the fragrance is in the sunscreen — and humans taste it when they’re consumed, he said.
The American Academy of Dermatology has argued that there is no data showing oxybenzone is a health hazard and supports it as an ingredient that protects skin from the sun.
But there’s no disputing the reefs are dying, Downs said, and that will be devastating to tourism — the main economic driver in Hawaii and other popular vacation spots.
When tourism suffers, he added, that means the loss of jobs, and the need for people to migrate elsewhere for work — putting pressure on other areas and local resources.
Ultimately, he said, it’s not that humans shouldn’t go to visit coral reefs or enjoy them — but it’s about being mindful of not using harmful sunscreen, not leaving plastic in the ocean and not polluting the environment in other ways.
“Go enjoy, but think how you can reduce your footprint,” Downs said. “Leave no trace.”
Article Source : https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/scope-great-barrier-reef-s-massive-coral-bleaching-alarms-scientists-n867521?cid=public-rss_20180422