Tuesday, November 14, 2006

What’s Happening to Our Coral Reef?

One of the top environmental problems in the Cook Islands would have to be the degradation of our coral reefs. Coral reefs are important for providing food for our families, protecting our land from stormy seas and preventing beach erosion. A healthy coral reef also means a healthy lagoon where we love to swim, snorkel, paddle and sail. Sadly, our coral reef and lagoon are becoming increasingly polluted by nutrients such as nitrates and phosphates. These nutrients come from poorly treated sewage and agricultural waste and agricultural fertilizers. Soil erosion through recent hillside construction is also a source of nutrients. These nutrients act just like fertilizers on land and cause seaweed to grow quickly. The seaweed kills the coral by blocking out sunlight. Some of these "seaweeds" and microscopic marine plants contain a natural toxin that causes health problems like ciguatera fish poisoning, skin rashes, eye and nose irritation.

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