Ocean Rescue: Prince Charles speaks out over ‘plight’ of world’s coral reefs

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The Prince of Wales said the “graveyard of destroyed reefs” blighting the world’s oceans was a modern day catastrophe.

Prince Charles

More must be done to address the “stark and desperate” plight facing the world’s coral reefs, Prince Charles has said.

Speaking at a conference organised by his International Sustainability Unit, he told marine experts, global organisations and politicians that the “graveyard of destroyed reefs” around the world was not just one for future generations to deal with.

The audience at Fishmongers’ Hall in London, which included Prince Harry, heard the heir to the throne describe the threats facing our oceans as one of the “profound perils of climate change”, with 50% of coral reefs having been destroyed in the last 30 years.

Coral reefs like this one in Indonesia are under threat. Pic: Jayne Jenkins
Image:
Coral reefs like this one in Indonesia are under threat. Pic: Jayne Jenkins

“Even when set against the dire backdrop of the destruction of tropical rainforests and the burgeoning illegal wildlife trade, the plight of the world’s coral reefs stand out in stark and desperate relief,” he said.

The Prince of Wales, who has previously spoken out about plastic pollution in the oceans, said it was “deeply irresponsible” that people regarded the loss of such “rich natural systems” as being the “price of progress” rather than an “arbiter of our vulnerability”.

A turtle explores the Great Barrier Reef. Pic: Jayne Jenkins
Image:
A turtle explores the Great Barrier Reef. Pic: Jayne Jenkins

He also spoke of the threat of “unprecedented rates of development” in coastal areas, and the “heightened pressures” caused by overfishing and land-based pollution.

“Now it is, of course, absolutely critical that the scale of the collaboration equals the size of the challenge,” he told delegates.

“The ocean has an astonishing ability to heal itself, if given the chance.

“We simply have to give it that chance, perhaps its last, for we must not only conserve what remains of these unique and vitally important ecosystems, but we must also allow nature to restore what has already been lost.”

The Great Barrier Reef's Lizard Island, before and after the effects of pollution. Pic: The Ocean Agency
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The Great Barrier Reef’s Lizard Island, before and after the effects of pollution. Pic: The Ocean Agency

Charles spoke of the “key role” to be played by governments, communities and scientists around the world, as well as media campaigns like Sky Ocean Rescue.

“I am hopeful that Sky will lend its voice and vision to this debate for it must, with a real sense of urgency, be brought into the homes, hearts and minds of people around the world,” he added.

People across the world rely on reefs for food, recreation and their livelihoods. Pic: Arc Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
Image:
People across the world rely on reefs for food, recreation and their livelihoods. Pic: Arc Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies

The Prince’s speech came in light of the International Coral Reef Initiative designating 2018 as the International Year of the Reef, which Charles said he hoped would “galvanise a global movement”.

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Prince Harry had been seen talking to delegates before his father’s speech, having previously met conservationists trying to restock a local coral habitat in Granada during a Royal trip in 2016.

A Kensington Palace spokesman said he had a continued interest in the issue and had been invited by Charles to attend Wednesday’s event.

Coral reefs like this one in Indonesia are under threat. Pic: Jayne Jenkins

A turtle explores the Great Barrier Reef. Pic: Jayne Jenkins

The Great Barrier Reef's Lizard Island, before and after the effects of pollution. Pic: The Ocean Agency

People across the world rely on reefs for food, recreation and their livelihoods. Pic: Arc Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies

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