Greenpeace calls for government action on coral bleaching in Taiwan

07/20/2021 05:01 PM
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File photo courtesy of Taitung County government
File photo courtesy of Taitung County government

Taipei, July 20 (CNA) A six-month documentation of coral reefs around Taiwan has found that their survival is still under threat, the international environmental organization Greenpeace said Tuesday, urging the government to act more aggressively to reverse the trend.

The data compiled over the past six months has found that 60 percent of the coral reefs being monitored in Taiwan are dying due to continuous bleaching, as was observed last summer, project director Chiu Tsung-jung (邱聰榮) said.

The coral bleaching in 2020, the worst since Taiwan began keeping such records in the 1980s, resulted from global warming and a low incidence of typhoons in the country last year, Chiu said.

He said the coral reefs being monitored around Taiwan seem not to have recovered from the bleaching last year and are covered in algae, which indicates death.

According to Chiu, the coral reefs that are being monitored in Taiwan are in the areas where the worst bleaching occurred in 2020, including Liuqiu Island off the southwest coast, Kenting on the southern tip of the country, and Green Island off the southeast coast.

The optimal temperature for coral growth is 20-28 degrees, while for bleaching it is below 18 degrees or above 30 degrees, according to experts.

The Greenpeace project, however, has found sea water temperatures of 30-31 degrees, in general, in the areas being monitored, Chiu said.

He called on the Taiwan government to set stricter carbon reduction targets, which will help control ocean temperatures and preserve corals reefs.

Extensive research on Taiwan's coral reefs will also be required in order to devise a more effective protection plan, said Chiu.

Fan Tung-yung (樊同雲), a coral reef researcher at the National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium, expressed similar views, saying the central and local governments must take aggressive action to stop the coral bleaching.

"There should be more marine conservation areas, particularly near Liuqiu Island," he said.

Hsu Chia-chuan (許家銓), a diving coach in Green Island who participated in the Greenpeace coral reef monitoring program, said he was saddened by the condition of the reefs around Taiwan.

"I was in tears when I saw the bleached coral reefs," he said. "I felt so helpless."

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, coral reefs worldwide are likely to decline by 70-90 percent if the global average surface temperature increases by 1.5 degrees Celsius, and they would all be lost if the surface temperature rises by 2 degrees.

(By Lee Hsin-Yin)

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