FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., Oct. 17 (UPI) -- Climate change will be at the forefront when the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force meets to discuss how to protect marine habitats around the world, officials say.
Summer temperatures that lead to "bleaching" and die-offs followed by unseasonable cold snaps will be addressed as the multi-agency, multi-state group meets in Fort Lauderdale this week, The Miami Herald reported Monday.
Reefs have been in decline in recent years from Florida to Australia, and researchers say it's time to shift the focus from just documenting sick and dying coral reefs to engaging in proactive efforts to save them.
"What we're trying to do is help nature help itself,'" Chris Bergh, director of coastal and marine resilience for The Nature Conservancy, said. "What we can do is give coral reefs more time by trying to reduce the stresses we can control. We need to do this as quickly as possible."
Among those stresses, researchers say, are leaky sewage and septic systems in the Florida Keys, errant anchors, snagged fishing lines and lobster traps, and clumsy or clueless divers -- all of which will need stricter regulation and expanded protected areas, Bergh said.
Many experts fear the battle to save the world's coral reefs may already be lost.
"Scientifically, if I am really brutally honest, I think the jury is still out," Margaret Miller, an ecologist with the National Marine Fisheries Services said.