Thomas Goreau, who is presently working in the Coral Triangle region between Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, said the crown-of-thorns starfish, which has recently been observed in the area in large numbers, is a real threat and that local measures taken to fight it could not solve the overall problem.
Recent surveys performed by the Wildlife Conservation Society and ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies have confirmed that the reefs have suffered large-scale destruction.
The starfish feeds on the coral and is thought to have been attracted to the region by fishing methods that involve the use of explosives and water pollution.
However it is not only starfish that threaten corals reefs, the largest living structures on Earth.
In his paper on the UN Convention on Climate Change, Goreau, who is the president of the Global Coral Reef Alliance, said: "Oil and coal burners are choosing to sacrifice coral reefs because they don't want the inconvenience of changing their polluting ways."
Coral reefs are the world's most biologically diverse habitat. There are over 4,000 species of reef fish and new kinds are continuously being discovered. Their economic importance is also huge as around half billion people completely depend on them for their livelihoods.