About 9 percent of the world's mapped reefs are found in this region, most of which are located along the Central American coast and off the Caribbean islands.
Our results indicate that almost two-thirds of reefs here are at risk (about one-third at high risk). Sedimentation from upland deforestation, poor agricultural practices, coastal development, pollution, and overfishing are major threats to many reefs here.
Most reefs of the Antilles and Lesser Antilles (including Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Dominica, and Barbados) are under high potential threat.
Virtually all of the reefs of the Lesser Antilles are at risk.
Almost all reefs of the Florida Keys are at moderate threat, largely from coastal development, inappropriate agricultural practices, overfishing of target species such as conch and lobster, and pollution associated with development and farming.
Those of the Bahamas and the Yucatan Peninsula and the remoter reefs off Belize, Honduras, and Nicaragua are largely at low risk from mapped human activity.
During review of these final threat classifications, coral reef experts provided the following observations:
The Florida Keys reefs are classified as under medium threat from marine pollution and coastal development. This is regarded as a potential underestimate of threat.
The reefs off southern Belize are classified as being under high threat, largely from inland pollution and erosion. This is regarded as a potential overestimate of threat, relative to other reefs in that region.
The reefs off western Costa Rica were estimated to be under high threat from coastal development and inland pollution and erosion. One researcher suggested that this overestimates threat in that area.
Bermuda's reefs are classified as being under high threat from overexploitation. This is an overestimate of current threat since the pot fishing industry was closed in 1990.
S.C. Jameson, J.W. McManus and M.M. Spalding, State of the Reefs: Regional and Global Perspectives (Washington, DC) ICRI, U.S. Department of State, 1995), 6-7.
Jorge Cortes, "Status of the Caribbean Coral reefs of central America," in Proceedings of the 8th International Coral Reef Symposium (Balboa, Panama, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, 1997), 339.