When corals lose their color because of stress in their environment, it is called 'coral bleaching.' Often, the coral cannot recover and dies. Warming oceans are the main cause of coral bleaching.
Healthy coral reefs support commercial and subsistence fisheries as well as jobs and businesses through tourism and recreation. Approximately half of all federally managed fisheries depend on coral reefs and related habitats for a portion of their life cycles. The National Marine Fisheries Service estimates the commercial value of U.S. fisheries from coral reefs is over $100 million.
Local economies also receive billions of dollars from visitors to reefs through diving tours, recreational fishing trips, hotels, restaurants, and other businesses based near reef ecosystems.
Despite their great economic and recreational value, coral reefs are severely threatened by pollution, disease, and habitat destruction. Once coral reefs are damaged, they are less able to support the many creatures that inhabit them. When a coral reef supports fewer fish, plants, and animals, it also loses value as a tourist destination.
For more information:
NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program
U.S. Coral Reef Task Force
NOAA Coral Reef Information System
Coral Health and Monitoring Program
Five Things You Should Know About Coral Reefs
Value of Coral Reefs (audio podcast)
Coral Reef Ecosystems (NOAA State of the Coast)