Why we should care about coral reef protection
Coral reefs are incredibly beautiful, but beyond that they are an important for many other reasons:
- Coral reefs are a habitat for many marine species. Reefs are home to fish, worms, crustaceans, clams and plants. Together they create a healthy reef ecosystem.
- Coral reefs are where fish breed. They are the nurseries of the world’s ocean fish stocks.
- Coral reefs provide food for local communities. And income for local fishermen.
- Coral reefs provide tourist dollars for communities. The value to the tourism industry from coral reefs is in the billions of dollars annually.
- Coral reefs provide coastal protection. Reefs are a natural barrier protecting against extreme weather events like tsunamis, hurricanes and typhoons.
- Coral reefs provide compounds used in medicine to treat disease. New compounds are still being discovered.
But coral reefs are under threat from pollution, over fishing, invasive species, climate change and disease.
Losing coral reefs would have negative environmental, social and economic impacts.
What’s being done to protect the oceans?
Ultimately, coral reef protection will require legislation such as the establishment of marine protected areas (MPA’s) and regulation of fishing fleets, and this is beginning to happen. Until recently combating illegal fishing was mostly done by environmental groups such as Sea Shepherd but in 2015 illegal fishing became a human rights issue and the media attention got governments to take action. Thailand is cleaning up it’s fisheries industry and Indonesia continues to sink illegal foreign fishing boats. More and more countries are ending government subsidies that support over fishing. Last year the UN made conservation of the oceans one of it’s main goals. Consumption of shark fin soup is also on the decline thanks to efforts to educate consumers.
How we can all help with coral reef protection
If you want to take some action yourself here are some suggestions that can help coral reefs survive.
- Use less water. Less run off and waste water means less pollution in our oceans.
- Use environmentally friendly soaps and shampoos.
- Use fewer single use plastic items like supermarket / 7 Eleven carrier bags. Dispose of trash responsibly, don’t leave your trash on the beach.
- Take part in a coral reef clean up. Go Eco Phuket organizes a couple each year in collaboration with local businesses. Clean the Beach Boot Camp runs regular Phuket Beach Clean ups.
- Practice responsible diving and snorkeling. Don’t touch the reef or take coral and shells as souvenirs. Avoid wearing gloves as they just encourage you to touch coral. Don’t tread on coral, and know where your fins are to avoid kicking coral or stirring up silt.
- Become an advocate, volunteer or donate. Support organisations involved in protecting the environment and lobby against laws that damage the environment. Some links: ClimateCentral.org , Projectaware.org , Coral Reef Alliance.