The Rosario Island Coral Reef System is one of many marine National Parks in the Caribbean sea, and one of 46 in Colombia. The park covers an area of about 20 hectares of coral reef and 43 different islands.
The reef was formed hundreds of years ago. Volcanic activity deep below the earths surface pushed the seabed up over time, allowing coral beds to form and marine life to flourish. Today the area is home to more than 1,300 species of plants and animals and is a fantastic location for diving, snorkeling and other recreational water activities.
In 1977 the area was declared a National Park by the State Ecological Authority, for the purpose of protection, conservation and study of this fragile ecosystem system of marine life. But declaring the site a National Park has not been enough to protect the reefs from damage, and today the area still remains under threat.
After two years of research and data gathering, a report was published in 2002 on the Status of Coral Reefs in Southern Tropical America. The project was a joint initiative of authorities from Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Panama and Venezuela.
The report stated that 'The coral reefs, have changed radically in the last 35 years, in particular during the 1980's, due mostly to anthropogenic stresses compounded by natural disturbances.' Research shows an alarming decline in the coverage of the reef by live coral in the area. Warmer sea temperatures contribute to the damage by killing off live coral and exposing the dead, calcified coral underneath. This is known as coral bleaching. Other threats include lower fish populations and high incidence of coral disease and large populations of sea urchins, who feed on live coral.
The report blames sewage pollution, tourism impact, resource extraction, over fishing and coastal development as the main causes of damage to the area, compounded by natural problems such as shifting weather patterns (El Nino), hurricanes and runoff from rivers…