Reef Rescue: 5 Things You Can Do To Protect Coral Reefs

The human footprint we have left on this earth is causing severe effects to our environment and the organisms living in them. Global warming and pollution have severely damaged the environment. For example, due to increased temperatures the polar ice caps are melting. Glaciers fall into the oceans causing the sea levels to rise. Not only are our own coastal towns endangered as a result, but also the innumerable ecosystems of aquatic wildlife.

Photo Courtesy: Roderick Eime via Flickr
Photo Courtesy: Roderick Eime via Flickr

Coral Reefs are unique because they are the central component in a thriving mini-ecosystem. Reefs are made up of tiny organisms that emit coral. Their colourful exoskeletons foster some of the most diverse ecosystems on earth. The coral reef is often referred to as the “rainforest of the sea.”

Here are 5 ways we are destroying coral reefs and how we can help preserve them.

Trash Pollution

Not only is it important to clean up beaches, but also take care of the trash on the inland as well. If not recycled, trash can end up in the oceans. Trash can smother corals when coming into contact. Eliminating the use of fertilizers and pesticides will help conserve coral reefs.

Air Pollution

Air pollution is caused by burning fossil fuels to power our homes and cars. The smoke this produces leads to increased carbon dioxide and greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere and oceans. A study conducted in 2013 by international researchers found chemical pollutants from coal-burning and volcanic eruptions are toxic to coral reefs. Also, the results of climate change have led to changes in behaviour by natural wildlife. The Crown of Thorns starfish (COTS) is an organism that rapidly feeds off the nutrients of coral. 12 COTS can devour a football field-sized coral. Outbreaks occur due to increases in water temperature and overfishing.


In over-fished areas, the amount of coral reduces. When there is a missing component to an ecosystem, it causes every other organism that relies on it to suffer. Seek out fish providers that do not fish near reefs and collect their fish without the use of chemicals or dynamite.

Fishing Methods

Fish play a vital role in the ecosystem of the reef. Juvenile fish take refuge in the crevices of the reef while older fish feed on the edges of coral allowing more nutrients to reach the new coral. The practice of fishing has become detrimental to the survival of the coral reef. The use of trawling has led to the damage of coral reefs around the world like in Alaska where 55% of a reef was scarred after one trawl passing. Cyanide fishing is used in to capture fish without killing them. Sodium cyanide is injected into the water, stunning the fish. Live reef fish are in demand in restaurants in Hong Kong and Singapore. In Hong Kong about 20,000 tons of live fish are eaten annually. For each live fish caught using cyanide, a square meter of their coral reef is killed.

Direct Human Impact

Our first-hand interactions can be harmful to coral. Reefs in high tourism areas are subject to damage by humans. Touching the coral can cause severe damage, even causing the coral to die. Even the chemicals in sunscreen can cause harm if in close contact. It is recommended that one does not boat or fish near a reef. The coral would not be able to sustain a strike from a boat or an anchor. Also, avoid purchasing coral items. Jewellery and aquarium accessories made of coral can have lasting, damaging effects. Be a smart tourist and simply, visually enjoy the reef. Practice snorkelling in an open area before swimming near the reef. Even swift motion from flippers and fins can disrupt the reef’s environment.

One way to preserve our wildlife and protect our environment is to embrace environmentalism. Seek out environmentally conscious methods of living. The actions of humans have been destroying our natural environment leading to the harm of many ecosystems and their habitats. The coral reef is a wonder of nature that is progressively reducing all around the world. These colourful mini-cities home to numerous organisms will no longer exist if we do not make a stand and change our behaviour for the better.

Article Courtesy : Bill Gordon

Bill Gordon is a freelance writer who likes writing articles that cover family, travel and environment related topics. He has written numerous articles and contributed to several other blogs. When he is not writing, he enjoys spending time with his wife and riding bikes.


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