If you have ever been so lucky to snorkel or dive on coral reefs you know how amazingly stunning these living structures are. Teeming with life, there is always something new to discover in this vibrant underwater world. Unfortunately, the world’s tropical coral reefs are under threat and with it the abundance of marine species that rely on this habitat for food, shelter and hunting grounds. Everyone can do their bit to help coral reefs though!
We know that a lot of you (our followers and community) care about coral reefs, so we wanted to give you 12 simple and easy tips on how YOU as an individual can help protect them. It doesn’t matter if you live on a tropical island with a coral reef as your next-door neighbour, or if you live in a landlocked country far far away from the equator – here you will find things that YOU can do to help coral reefs independent of where you might live (some of them might surprise you!).
We have separated our 12 tips into two sections. What you can do to help when you are visiting a coral reef and also things you can do in general around living more sustainably.
Be a good visitor!
Things to think about while exploring coral reefs
1) Look but don’t touch!
Coral reefs are very delicate and can easily break, so when you are snorkelling or diving at a reef avoid touching them. Be careful so that you don’t step on them and be aware of your fins so you don’t accidentally kick them.
2) Anchor in the sand
If you are taking your boat out where there are coral reefs make sure you anchor on the sandy bottom and not on the coral reef! Make sure the direction the anchor might be dragged is not in straight line with a reef.
3) Check your sunscreen!
Is it coral-reef safe? Many sunscreens have chemicals in them that can damage the corals by disrupting their hormones and affect their reproduction, and some can even kill them. Look for sunscreens that are labelled as reef-safe (see Chasing Coral for a list of chemicals to avoid and examples of some safe brands!). Or even better – limit your sunscreen use by wearing a long-sleeved shirt or one of the amazing ocean-mimic swimsuits.
4) Raise awareness!
Awareness helps! When on an organised dive or snorkelling trip to a coral reef, ask them if they are doing anything to support coral reef conservation. If yes – awesome, most likely they will love to hear that you care. If no – by asking them, you show you care which can motivate them to start 😉
Live more sustainably
There are also a lot of things we can do on a daily basis that lead to helping coral reefs. Keep reading for practical tips and how these tips are linked to coral reef protection!
5) Reduce your greenhouse gas emissions
One of the major threats to corals reefs today is warmer oceans (which leads to coral bleaching). So one of the things we can do – no matter where we live – is to choose options that release less greenhouse gases. This can include choosing more eco-friendly transportation methods (e.g. walk, bike or use public transport instead of a car), reducing your energy use by turning off lights and electronic devices when you are not using them and eating more plant-based food. Check out these 15 tips from the Guardian on how you can reduce your emissions
6) Take out the trash
Recycle and disposed of your trash properly and join beach clean ups! Marine trash can be harmful to coral reefs. For example, some plastic waste can release chemicals that are harmful to corals.
7) Rethink your wastewater
Reduce your wastewater and the amount of chemicals that is in your wastewater – as this will in many cases eventually end up in the ocean and can be harmful to coral reefs. Eg use biodegradable and eco-friendly detergents (such as bicarbonate of soda)
8) Avoid fertilizers
Runoff from land bring the fertilizers used in gardens to our coastal waters. This can be harmful to the corals, as more nutrients (from fertilizers) can promote the growth of algae on the reefs – the algae can then end up covering the corals and reduce the amount of sunlight they get, which eventually could kill the corals. Therefore, you can help the coral reefs by reducing, or even better avoiding, using fertilizers in your garden. Alternatively find an organic fertilizer.
9) Plant trees!
More trees mean less runoff from land (which can be harmful to corals) going into the oceans!
10) Ask about your seafood
Many coral reefs are damaged by unsustainable fishing activities. So, when you buy seafood ask how the fish have been caught and if it has been caught sustainably. Asking questions will show the sellers that we as consumers care about where it comes from. Hopefully encouraging sellers to focus on fish that is sustainably fished. This also goes for those of you who have an aquarium. Be sure to check that the fish you buy have been collected in a sustainable way.
11) Don’t buy corals
Never buy corals as these most likely will have been picked from a coral reef.
12) Sharing is caring!
Share these tips with others and spread the awareness – together we can make a change and help our reefs! If you have any pics of you in your mimic suits exploring coral reefs, please send them in as we’d love to see them in action
Looking for more on coral reefs? Listen to a marine biologist explain what a coral is and why they are under threat today in this podcast by Sam Reynolds. Watch this talk to see how Dr David Vaughan accidentally found out how he can make corals grow faster and how he is working to bringing coral reefs back to life.