Thursday, September 4, 2008

Corals: What You Can Do

I would like to do much more about coral reefs at a later date. There is so much to discuss, the issues are so complex and we stand to lose so much if we don’t halt the destruction of our coral reefs. As promised, I have devised a list of things that can be done to help stop eradication of probably the most diverse ecological habitats the world has.

1. Get politically active. Let your elected officials know what you want and that your vote in the next election will be determined by what they do or don’t do. Despite declarations aimed at stopping illegal fishing or the live reef fish trade, there is little political will. There are insufficient incentives favoring conservation, too little enforcement and with little or no “punch” behind the law when an attempt in enforcement is made. The money from the trade of illegal wildlife and/or ocean life is second only to that made from the drug trade. Gives me pause for thought.
2. Refuse to buy coral in any form. The coral harvesting business is one of the major threats to coral reefs. Coral are very fragile creatures and can take a long time to recover if broken. Walking on coral is one of the mistakes most commonly made by tourists. They don’t realize that by walking on them, they are condemning those coral to death and; perhaps, also the entire reef. Locals walk on the coral while harvesting coral pieces for the tourist trade. If there is no market, there will be no harvesting.
3. Refuse to stay in tourist areas that have been constructed at the expense of the local coral. Construction along coasts is often done with materials removed by dredging and dynamiting from the living coral reef. Construction will often result in heavy sedimentation and siltation. This is usually done in response to the tourist trade. When vacationing in countries that engage in coastal development while destroying coral reefs; refuse to stay at their facilities and tell them why.
4. Be discerning when buying tropical fish for your aquarium. Try to avoid reef fish. Cyanide poisoning is a popular method to catch tropical fish for aquariums. Not only are the fish stunned making them “easy pickings” for the hunters; but, this method hurts species other than the targeted one, harms the coral and destroys valuable algae that supports some of the marine life in that part of the reef. Divers squirt a cyanide solution from bottles directly onto fish resting on corals, killing the corals and stunning the fish. The fish often escape into crevices and the fishermen have to break apart the coral to get to their paralyzed prey. With this technique not only the fish are poisoned; but, also the coral polyps and other creatures in the area. Places where cyanide was spread will form black slime before becoming dead coral rock.
5. Choose eco-tours when traveling. If not an eco-tour, choose dive operators, guides, or any other recreational hosts who support environmental initiatives. Divers all want to conserve the beautiful reefs; but, the increasing popularity of scuba diving has also put more strain on coral reefs around the world. Divers, underwater photographers and beginners sometimes make contact with fragile corals, breaking them or damaging them. This leaves them susceptible to bacterial attack and disease. Boat anchors from dive boats or other recreational boats also contribute to the damage.
As a diver you can help by choosing dive operators who support environmental initiatives.
6. Invest responsibly. Climate change and global warming are two of the major killers of coral reefs Global weather changes are happening due to pollution, the greenhouse gas effect and other contributing man-made factors. When buying stocks, chose environmentally-responsible stocks and bonds. You don’t have to invest in stocks that bolster pollution to make money. There are more “green” stocks and bonds out there than you may realize.
7. Eat environmentally-friendly foods. I realize that Chilean Sea Bass is an epicurean’s delight; but, it is a tremendously endangered species as are many others. Sometimes being environmentally-friendly means making a sacrifice or two like giving up Chilean Sea Bass. However, the choice is actually larger than that. The choice is to either contribute to the continued decline of marine life or play a positive role in preserving our aquatic natural resources.
8. Get educated and share your knowledge! Tell others about life in the coral reefs and their importance to future generations and about conserving the marine resources. Let people know that you support the restoration of our coral reefs world-wide. Education and sharing that knowledge will turn the tide.

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