Corals Die for Airport Expansion: A Thriving Coral Habitat in the Marshall Islands Is Under Threat

A thriving coral habitat in the Marshall Islands—a sovereign nation in the northern Pacific with a free association compact with the United States—is under threat of destruction thanks to an airport expansion on Majuro, the capital atoll. To increase tourism opportunities, the U.S. government plans to excavate the reefs surrounding the islands to provide filler for the expansion of the Imata Kabua International Airport

The contractor, Pacific International Inc., “plans to build a long access ramp in order to drag line dredge the adjacent coral reef to obtain the enormous amount of fill needed for the land reclamation,” Dean Jacobson, a marine ecologist leading opposition to the excavation, told Environment News Service.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration notes that coral reef ecosystems in the Marshall Islands are in “excellent condition” but are suffering increasing pressures from overfishing, climate change, sea-level rise and increased urbanization. Reefs near the Majuro atoll, due to the higher population, they write, “are far more impacted by fishing and pollution” than other parts of the islands. A 2011 study by the World Resources Institute found that all the world’s reefs may be gone by 2050 if current trends continue.

Jacobson has launched a petition to end coral mining on the Marshall Islands at thepetitionsite.com (search “coral mining”).