Coral reefs are one of the world’s greatest wonders. They are the ultimate place to see the immense beauty and variety of our oceans. Sadly, they’re also one of the hardest-hit parts of the environment across the planet. Thankfully, there are lots of simple, practical things you can do to protect our reefs and restore them to health.
- One of the easiest and most important things to do is to use reef-safe sunscreen whenever you hit the beach. Many sunscreens have chemicals in them which are harmful to aquatic life, and to reefs in particular. Look for certified reef-safe sunscreens to use, and educate your friends about the importance of doing so!
- Look, but don’t touch! When you’re snorkeling or diving and presented with the brilliant colors and countless textures of a coral reef, it’s very tempting to touch. Don’t! One little touch can cause permanent damage. Leave the coral be, and just float above or next to the reef. Only go snorkeling when the ocean is calm enough so you won’t be tossed around too much. And make sure to take a mask that fits your face well so you can see what you’re where you’re going. When you’re diving, practice good buoyancy control with your dive master or instructor so you can float gently near the reef without flailing your arms.
- Bring reusable bags, containers, etc. when you go on holiday. A sad fact of travel is that we often generate more waste than when we’re at home. Bring a lunchbox, a reusable water bottle, and a reusable shopping bag on your next trip, and remind your companions to do the same.
- Leave no trace, and take any rubbish you find with you! Remember that anything left on a beach will eventually end up in the sea, so be sure to take anything you bring back with you. Do a good deed and pick up that stray bottle or food packet while you’re there, too!
- Do what you can in your daily life to lessen your carbon footprint. This is the primary way you impact coral reefs every day, whether you’re at the beach or not! The biggest threat to coral reefs around the world is bleaching, caused by the warming seas. Already, we’ve seen that the Great Barrier Reef is dying off at record speeds.
That’s a daunting concept to tackle, but every little bit helps! Inflate your tires to improve your mileage on the road. Switch off and unplug at home (use power strips!). Install efficient LED bulbs, and purchase efficient appliances and vehicles in future.
Likewise, think about what you’re putting into the water in your daily life! Household cleaners are some of the biggest pollutants that end up in our water supplies and oceans. Natural, non-toxic, and biodegradable are the words to look for! Avoid bleach or corrosives, and remember that simple kitchen goods like vinegar, baking soda and lemon juice all work wonders.
You can also protect reefs by shopping smarter at the grocery store. Many fishing operations use trawling, which can destroy reefs irreparably. Always buy sustainably-raised and harvested seafood! Certifications vary by area, but look carefully at sourcing and make sure you’re not supporting trawling
Conserve water in your daily life to reduce runoff and wastewater production. Remember, much of it ends up in the oceans eventually! Avoid chemical treatments on your lawn and garden, and plant trees if you can. Planting trees in someone’s honor is a great alternative to gift-giving at the holidays, too!
Get involved with conservation efforts by volunteering, making donations, and raising awareness! You’d be hard-pressed to find somebody who’s not moved by the degradation of reefs, so making people aware of the problem is absolutely essential. You can even volunteer to clean up a coral reef, depending on your location and your willingness to travel!
Contact your elected officials to demand environmental protections and action on climate issues. While it’s important for all of us to make small, incremental changes in our lives, we need to take drastic action to save reefs before it’s too late. Be sure that your elected officials are informed, engaged, and active in the effort to preserve our oceans for future generations!
Most of all, aquatic life across the board is endangered by our usage of plastic. An island of trash (primarily plastic waste) the size of Mexico is currently sitting in the Pacific, mostly due to the fact that 91% of the world’s plastic waste isn’t actually recycled. Reduce your usage of plastics by buying groceries in bulk, being sure to use and support recycling services in your community, and avoiding disposable items like bottled water or plastic bags.
If we all made these changes, we’d go a long way to preserving the integrity of our reefs for future generations.
About the author:
Josh Kaplan is an avid scuba diver who travels around the world exploring beaches, reefs, and shipwrecks. He also writes buying guides and how-to articles at scubalist.pro to help other aquatic adventurers find high-quality gear for affordable prices.