Situated on South America’s northern coast Venezuela has some of the most diverse and well developed coral reefs in the Caribbean, although they are limited in their distribution.  On the continental shelf, reef development is greatly limited by upwelling and by freshwater and sediment runoff.  The best developed and more diverse coral reefs are located offshore around Los Roques, La Orchilla, Cubagua and Isla de Aves. Just outside of the Hurricane Belt and away from continental influences, these areas are favorable for reef development: 69 scleractinian species are known to exist here and coral cover can reach up to 75 percent for some localities. 
As a result of low population pressure and little development, the reefs at risk analysis did not identify any reefs around the offshore Venezuelan islands as being threatened. However, fishing and a growing tourism industry represent potential threats.  Reefs along the continental Venezuelan coast are subject to pressure from overfishing, coastal development, and some port facilities. Deforestation has increased the amount of sediment being deposited in coastal waters,  and all reefs along the continental coast were identified as under high threat from land-based sources.
The fisheries in Venezuela are predominantly commercial and the shrimp is the most important species of the marketable catch.  The reef fishery is artisanal and stable in the offshore islands, but is overfished in coastal areas.  The Venezuelan Queen Conch fishery (mainly located around the offshore islands) has been closed since 1991 when studies showed it to be severely over-fished. There is pressure from fishermen and industry to re-open this fishery, and this was done for one year in 1999. Illegal fishing and poaching by foreigners is reported to be ongoing and to be severely undermining the recovery of the populations. 
The major anthropogenic effects on Venezuela’s continental coral reefs are from increased sediment loads resulting from deforestation, industrial and home waste waters, and chemical or oil spills. In early 1996, an extensive mass mortality wiped out many important reef species in Morrocoy National Park and live coral cover dropped from 30-50 percent to close to zero. The cause is still being debated, but chemical pollution from a nearby spill or natural causes are the leading hypotheses. 
The offshore islands reefs, however, are distant from the continental influences and direct pollution impacts. Fishing activities (mainly for spiny lobster) and the booming tourism industry represent the major threats. Diving and snorkeling are having an impact on the reefs at Los Roques National Park, although, reportedly, not enough to cause reef decline.  Heavy tanker and cargo traffic near some of the islands represent another potential threat if there is a grounding accident. 
Coral diseases and coral bleaching have a low incidence in general on Venezuelan reefs. White Band Disease has had an impact on the stony coral population around Los Roques, particularly Acropora palmate, which has nearly disappeared . Atlantic and Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment (AGGRA) surveys during 1999 identified Yellow Band Disease as the most common and widespread coral disease. 
Even though most of the Venezuelan coastal coral reefs are under protection, because they lie within National Parks with special regulations, enforcement is weak as a result of a lack of personnel and the logistical and financial capacity. 
 E. Weil, “The Corals and Coral Reefs of Venezuela,” in Latin American Coral Reefs. J. Cort