Source: News24 
Bangkok - Most coral reefs escaped "serious damage" from the 2004 tsunami and should recover in less than 10 years, though much will depend on local government's protecting marine ecosystems, according to a report released on Monday.
The report, compiled by Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network, found that reefs in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand were hardest hit by massive waves with damage reaching up to 30% in some places. But much like earlier studies, it found that human activities like illegal fishing and climate change pose the greatest risk to the future of these reefs.
"Most coral reefs will recover from these stresses in five to 10 years, provided that there are no other major stresses," according to the report released in the Thai resort island of Phuket, which was damaged by the tsunami.
Coral reefs suffer ongoing stress
"The tsunami caused some localised damage, but ongoing human stresses pose a far greater threat to the survival of Indian Ocean coral reefs and mangrove forests," the report found, adding "stronger conservation and protection of coral reefs and other coastal resources" is needed to enhance their resistance to future disasters.
The December 26 2004, Indian Ocean tsunami devastated mostly rural, coastal communities in 12 countries, leaving at least 216 000 people dead or missing and more than one million homeless.
The coastal ecosystems were largely spared some of the worst damage, partly because they have been so badly damaged over the years by dynamite fishing, coastal runoff and development. Some reefs also had suffered bleaching in 1998 from warming ocean waters, and had barely begun to recover when the tsunami hit.
Plans to protect reefs
To ensure the survival of these reefs, the report called on tsunami-devastated nations to proclaim exclusion zones to protect people from future tsunamis and storm surges and government policies that better protect the reefs. It also called for the development of alternative livelihoods for coastal villagers so they put less stress on these marine ecosystems.
"The tsunami has presented Indian Ocean governments with the opportunity to improve coastal resource management, national oceans policy and legislation for better coral reef and mangrove forest conservation," the report said.