Wednesday, June 19, 2024

UNAM scientist warns of damage by industrial pollution to Veracruz reefs

The Veracruz reef system could disappear by 2050 due to industrial pollution, a researcher from the National Autonomous University (UNAM) has warned.

Coral cover on the Veracruz coast has decreased 40% since 1966 due to pollution released into the Jamapa, Papaloapan, Actopan and La Antigua rivers that flow to the coast. Natural resources have been exploited in the area since pre-Hispanic times but the processes were always of lower impact, according to the newspaper Milenio

The oil, agriculture, construction, fishing and tourism industries in Veracruz have created chemical debris, threatening the existence of the more than 50 reefs that form one of the most extensive ecosystems in the Gulf of Mexico. 

Guillermo Horta Puga pointed to the oil industry as the chief culprit. “There are areas of the reef that are highly impacted  … there is a good possibility that by 2050, the reefs in Veracruz will disappear because an increase in the levels of baryte has been shown, which is a metal widely used in oil as a drilling fluid,” he said. 

Horta Puga added that lead had been left from gasoline used over several years, as had barium and cadmium deposits released by ground movement due to changes in land use in the area. Also, copper and tin had come from paint on boats.

“The studies that have been carried out show that copper and tin are in the macroalgae that replace corals on reefs. With the construction of the city and the port of Veracruz and the latest expansion over five years, the impact has been greater, especially when added to the [impact of] agricultural and industrial activities … that dump waste into the basins and through the rivers that then reach the coastal area,” he said.

The United Nations has warned about the future of reefs. In 2019, it said that 90% of the “super ecosystems” that provide a habitat for 25% of marine species could be extinct by 2050.

With reports from Milenio 

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