The Caribbean's coral reefs are in rapid decline, according to a report released by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Scientists have discovered that the live coral cover on Caribbean reefs, which was at over 50% in the 1970s, is now at just 8%, and blame climate change, overfishing and pollution for the drastic reduction.
And this alarming rate of decline shows no sign of slowing.
"The major causes of coral decline are well-known and include overfishing, pollution, disease and bleaching caused by rising temperatures resulting from the burning of fossil fuels," said Carl Gustaf Lundin, director of IUCN’s Global Marine and Polar Programme.
"Looking forward, there's an urgent need to immediately and drastically reduce all human impacts if coral reefs and the vitally important fisheries that depend on them are to survive in the decades to come."
Reefs in more remote areas, such as the Cayman Islands is less marked, according to the study, with up to 30% of cover still surviving. These areas are exposed to less human impact and natural disasters like hurricanes.
IUCN is calling for strictly enforced local action to improve the health of corals, including limits on fishing through catch quotas, an extension of marine protected areas (MPAs), a halt to nutrient runoff from land and a reduction on the global reliance on fossil fuels. Through the IUCN-coordinated Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN), there are also moves to strengthen the data available concerning coral reef decline at a worldwide level.
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