The worlds coral reefs are at risk.
Sea Temperatures Rising - Sunscreen - Overfishing - Tourism
Why are our coral reefs dying?
The decline of the coral reef is happening at twice the pace of the rainforests. It is predicated that 70% Coral Reefs will disappear by 2030 if the impact from humans doesn't change. There are a number of factors that tie into the demise of the worlds coral reefs, illegal, improper and overfishing habits, rising sea temperatures, sunscreen chemicals and negative tourism.
Overfishing & Destructive Fishing Methods
Coral reefs have a very delicate eco system and unsustainable fishing puts the balance of the reef at risk. There are a number of ways that improper fishing can affect the coral reef. We know that certain species gather to feed, so they are vulnerable to overfishing. Indiscriminate fishing can have negative impacts on reefs, as often the herbivores that feast on algae to balance the eco system are more likely to be caught.
Not only does overfishing of species have an impact on the reefs, but certain fishing styles and fishing gear can also cause damage. For example, dynamite fishing, which is used to stun fish to make them easier to catch, can actually break up and destroy the coral on a reef as it is very fragile.
Ocean acidification is when the pH of the ocean is reduced for a long period of time. When carbon dioxide dissolves in the ocean, carbonic acid is formed and this leads to higher acidity in our oceans. It has been shown to significantly reduce the ability of reef-building corals to produce their skeletons.
One of the biggest reasons for the bleaching and decline in coral reefs is global warming and a rise in the temperature of the ocean. The white coral bleaching is caused by heat stress from the corals releasing their brightly colored algae leaving them completely white. If the bleaching events last longer than just a few weeks then the coral will starve to death.
Tourism & Coastal Development
The tourism industry is booming but this can negatively impact the coral reefs. Careless swimmers and divers can cause physical damage to corals if they misstep or bump the coral. Also boatmen who take the tourists to see the stunning reefs, dropping anchor in the wrong place can lead to extensive damage to corals. Hotels and businesses discharging untreated sewage into the ocean can cause an increase in algae growth, which is bad news for the coral as they compete for space on the reef.
With an increase in tourism, coastal developments become a necessity to cope with the demand. However, sediment runoff from construction sites ends up in the ocean. There it covers the reefs and blocks out the sunlight preventing photosynthesis and depriving the coral of key nutrients.
Did you know that the chemicals in your sunscreen can have a dramatic effect on coral? The state of Hawaii has actually banned certain chemically based sunscreen that contains common UV-filtering ingredients, such as oxybenzone and octinoxate. This is because both chemicals have been linked to coral bleaching.
Scientists have found that when corals absorb these chemicals, oxybenzone and octinoxate, it causes a similar reaction to if the surrounding water temperatures were to get too warm. These chemicals in the ocean also allow viruses to thrive, which puts the corals at risk of catching an infection which can also lead to bleaching and ultimately the death of corals.
What can we do?
Want to take action today and make an impact? There are a number of ways that you can do your part to protect the worlds coral reefs:
Be mindful of where your fish come from. Only support sustainable and responsible fisheries.
When shopping for sunscreen make sure that you only buy coral friendly sunscreen. Avoiding harmful ingredients like oxybenzone and butylparaben that disrupts coral reproduction.
Do your part to fight global warming.
Be mindful if you visit coral reefs to not touch them and be responsible tourists!
- Support efforts to protect and develop coral reefs.
You can also sign this petition, started by 11 year old Eliana. She is asking that the FDA bans all products that contain ingredients that are toxic to coral reefs, as well as demanding that big name brands like Coppertone, Hawaiian Tropic and Banana Boat to start creating safe and healthy sunscreens. Plus requesting that the EPA take action on coral bleaching and ban the toxic ingredients that go into everyday sunscreens. Do your part, share and sign the petition today!