Interview with Marine Scientist Roberto Iglesias-Prieto
By Stephen Leahy
FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida, U.S., Jul 31 (Tierramérica)
“There would be no white sands on the beaches of Cancún without the Mesoamerican reef,” Professor Roberto Iglesias-Prieto, a marine ecophysiologist working at the Institute of Marine Sciences and Limnology of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, told Tierramérica.
Tourism is Mexico’s third leading source of revenue, and the country needs to invest much more in protecting its valuable coral systems, says the expert. But to explain the problems that coral reefs face “it is not enough to be an ecologist; one has to be an economist and political scientist as well,” he adds.
The Mesoamerican reef, which is off the Yucatán Peninsula and is shared by Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras, extends 1,100 kilometres, making it the largest in the Atlantic Ocean and the second largest in the world, after the Great Barrier Reef east of Australia.
Corals are crucial for the health of oceans and are home to 25 to 33 percent of marine life. The livelihoods of one billion people rely on coral reefs, directly or indirectly.
But the reefs are dying as a result of excessive fishing, pollution and climate change, which is heating up the water and causing acidification.
Few coral reefs will be healthy beyond 2050 if significant reductions in emissions from the burning of fossil fuels do not occur in the near term, most experts in this field agree.
Tierramérica’s Stephen Leahy spoke with Iglesias-Prieto during the 11th International Coral Reef Symposium in July in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.