Coral reefs are well known as some of the most beautiful, biologically diverse and delicate ecosystems in the world.

They are also vital to maintaining food supply and protecting the shoreline of low-lying island nations.

Nevertheless, UNEP estimates that about 25 to 50% per cent of the world's coral reefs have been destroyed and another 60 per cent are under threat.

Some 850 million people live within 100 km of a coral reef - known as the "rainforest of the ocean" - and derive some economic benefit from their ecosystem services.

The Coral Reef Unit (CRU) was established by the UNEP Executive Director in 2000 to coordinate UNEP's work on Coral Reefs. It works in partnership with Regional Seas Conventions and Action Plans and other institutions on joint development of tools and methods that enable ecosystem based approaches to coral reef management; regional and national level policy support and demonstration projects to facilitate adoption and uptake; as well as capacity building and networking to promote exchange of best practice.

The Coral Reef Unit represents UNEP in the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI), and supports Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN) reporting through the Regional Seas.