17 July 2004




Okinawa Declaration on Conservation and Restoration of Endangered Coral Reefs of the World




Coral reefs and associated ecosystems are invaluable human treasures. They support the most diverse marine communities and beautiful seascapes on the planet, and provide wave-resistant structures and resources for local communities, fisheries, and tourism. However, coral reefs and associated ecosystems are now under serious threat of collapse because of over fishing, development of the coastal zone, including dredging and landfill, and terrestrial run-off. Moreover, the increase in sea surface temperatures, the decrease in carbonate levels as well as sea-level rise, caused by increasing anthropogenic CO2 in the atmosphere, all act synergistically to stress coral reefs, which lead to severe bleaching and extensive coral mortality. The degradation of coral reefs by local, regional, and global environmental stresses is at the very least destroying the health, function, and positive values associated with coral reefs, and at the worst leading to loss of this treasure.

We, the participants of the 10th International Coral Reef Symposium (28 June to 2 July, 2004, Okinawa, Japan) acknowledge that the degradation of coral reefs worldwide has now reached a critical stage. We declare in the strongest terms that additional destruction of coral reefs must be avoided and more effort is necessary to prevent further reef demise. Conservation and restoration of coral reefs should be made without delay in each nation acting individually and in concert through closer international cooperation. To this end, we advocate scientific research and rigorous monitoring, management-tool development, and appropriate measures for conservation and sustainable use of coral reefs. In addition, scientifically sound restoration measures for already-degraded coral reefs must be applied.

A twin strategy must be taken over the longer term to reduce human induced climate change by reducing green-house gases, but at the same time a reduction in CO
2 must be matched by action to reduce immediate threats of declining water quality because of land-use changes and pollution, and mass exploitation of fish biomass. To achieve these goals, we recommend four key strategies: 1) achieve sustainable fishery on coral reefs, 2) increase effective marine protected areas on coral reefs, 3) ameliorate land-use change impacts, and 4) develop technology for coral reef restoration. Such efforts must be fostered and sustained through stewardship and cooperation among scientists, managers, policymakers, non-governmental organizations, and the general public. The task must be enhanced through international linkages among the principal global scientific body (International Society for Reef Studies [ISRS]), the main international management initiative (International Coral Reef Initiative [ICRI]), as well as leading international organizations (e.g. UNESCO, UNEP, IUCN) and NGOs.


As participants in the 10th International Coral Reef Symposium, we collectively appeal to all researchers, managers, users, and lovers of coral reefs to accomplish the above tasks, and we urge relevant international organizations, national governments, and NGOs to find common understanding and means to collaborate towards this goal.