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1 . Sri Lanka     Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is a large continental island off the southeast coast of the Indian sub-continent. About 30 percent of the land area is low-lying (less than 30 meters elevation). Offshore the continental shelf is particularly narrow to the south and east, widening to the northwest to join that of India. Much of the coastline is dominated by high wave energy, while the southern and western coasts are further affected by considerable turbidity associated with numerous river mouths. Largely as a consequence of this, coral reefs are not abundant in the coastal waters.

It has been estimated that fringing reefs of varying quality occur along about 2 percent of the coastline, mostly along northwestern and eastern coasts. This statistic includes many coral communities which have developed on non-coral, or fossil reef, platforms. Most reefs could be described as fringing-type formations (although not all are mature structures with clear zonation patterns). Additionally there are some barrier reefs on the northwest coast at Vankalai, Silavatturai and Bar Reef, while in the southeast corals have colonized offshore ridges at Great Basses and Little Basses. The reefs around the Jaffna Peninsula in the north are mainly fringing reefs, but not very well developed. The greatest reef development is in the northwest between Mannar Island and the Kalpitiya Peninsula.

Nearshore fisheries are a critical activity in Sri Lanka, providing food, employment and income. Marine fisheries account for 90-95 percent of the total landings, and nearshore fisheries some 70-80 percent of these. Although coral reefs are not widespread, one estimate has suggested that up to 50 percent of the nearshore capture fishery depends directly on coral reef ecosystems. One other important economic activity is the collection of live fish for the aquarium trade. This has grown considerably over the past two decades: some 250 species of reef fish and 50 invertebrates have been exported, in an industry valued at approximately US$3 million in 1998. Other species harvested for export in 1998 included 260 tons of sea cucumbers, and over 800 tons of other molluscs.

Tourism plays an important part in the national economy, with coastal tourism estimated to contribute around US$200 million per year. Although reef-related tourism is only a very small fraction of this, it is important in the southwest, particularly around Hikkaduwa where the reef received over 10 000 visitors in 1994.

The threats to Sri Lanka’s reefs are numerous and it is likely that the total reef area of this nation may once have been much larger. Many of the remaining reefs are highly degraded. Principle causes of degradation include very high levels of sedimentation arising from erosion of deforested land, poor agricultural practices and construction. Historically, coral mining has led to almost complete destruction of many reefs along the south and southwest coast and may have had similar impacts in the east. Although officially banned in 1983, mining in the sea continues in many areas where it is a traditional activity providing relatively high income employment. Coral rock, taken from living and fossil reefs, is used as a raw material in lime production. In addition to direct destruction, coral mining leads to increased erosion and high turbidity over wide areas of the coastline. Further threats to the remaining reefs arise from destructive fishing practices, including dynamite fishing, uncontrolled exploitation of resources, and pollution arising from sewage and industrial effluent. The combination of threats and current state of degradation of many reefs may slow recovery from the 1998 bleaching event. Although some legislation is in place controlling such activities as coral mining, enforcement is clearly a problem. Only two protected areas (Bar Reef and Hikkaduwa) are specifically designated for the protection of coral reefs, and management is either extremely weak or absent.
Source: Spalding, M.D., C. Ravilious and E.P. Green , 2001 , World Atlas of Coral Reefs . Prepared at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre. University of California Press,Berkeley,USA.421p. (See Document)

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