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Want to Save Coral Reefs? First, Save the Fish: Study

Want to save coral reefs? More fish may be the answer, researchers say in a new study.

The colorful underwater ecosystems around coral can host a great diversity of life, but overfishing on the reefs and other threats like pollution can lead to collapse of those populations. The researchers say that, with as much as three-quarters of the world’s reefs under threat, rebuilding and protecting fish populations may help reefs weather larger challenges, like climate change.

Scientists from the Australian Institute of Marine Science, the Wildlife Conservation Society and other organizations participated in the study, which was published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

“The methods used to estimate reef health in this study are simple enough that most fishers and managers can take the weight and pulse of their reef and keep it in the healthy range,” Tim McClanahan, WCS senior conservationist and study co-author, said in a release. “Fishers and managers now have the ability to map out a plan for recovery of reef health that will give them the best chance to adapt to climate change.”

The scientists studied 832 coral reefs in locations around the globe, and came up with some numbers on how much fishing a reef can take, as well as what protections can be put in place and what species can be reintroduced to nurse a reef ecosystem back to health.

‘We have to make sure we keep reefs healthy’

IN-DEPTH

--- NBC News Staff