An excerpt from Earth Facts
WHY ARE CORAL REEFS IMPORTANT?
Coral reefs are the most productive shallow water ecosystems in the world. An ecosystem is a community of living organisms, their habitat, their interactions with each other and their physical environment, and the flow of energy and matter through the system. Even though coral reefs cover less than 0.5% of the sea floor, they contain roughly 25% of the ocean’s species and 33% of the world’s fish species.
• Protect coastal areas by reducing storm damage, coastal erosion and flooding
• Are a habitat for fish and shell fish, which are important sources of protein for humans
• Provide shelter and food for many species of marine life and birds
• Provide jobs through fishing and tourism
• Are a source of drugs for cancer, AIDS, arthritis, asthma and many other illnesses
• Offer us an extraordinary underwater world to study and enjoy
WHAT ARE WE DOING TO CORAL REEFS?
• Pollute them with sewage, oil spills, fertilizers and pesticides
• Overfish grazers like parrot fish, allowing algae to grow over the reefs
• Destroy them with dynamite and other harmful fishing practices
• Smother them with silt from deforestation and development
• Drop anchors and ground boats on them
• Step on them, break them and take them for jewellery and curios
WHAT CAN WE DO?
Remember, what you do or don’t do makes a difference to the survival of coral reef ecosystems.
Fishermen and boat handlers:
• Do NOT anchor on coral. Always check that the anchor is properly set in sand and that the chain rope is unlikely to snag coral
• Do NOT fish using dynamite, poison or fish nets with small mesh sizes
• DO obey closed seasons and protected area rules
Divers and snorkelers
• When diving or snorkeling, look but do NOT touch. Do NOT grasp, stand or sit on living coral
• DO avoid stirring up sediment
• DO take all trash back to land for disposal. A plastic bottle takes about 450 years to biodegrade!
Coastal home owners
• DO keep construction well back from the high water mark
• DO encourage the growth of indigenous vegetation above the beach to prevent erosion
• DO reduce/eliminate pesticide and fertilizer use
• DO conduct coastal clean-ups
• Do NOT remove mangroves and sea grass beds
• DO use phosphate-free detergents
• DO treat sewage properly
All concerned individuals
• DO remember that what we do on land always ends up in the sea. Reduce/eliminate the use of pesticides and excessive amounts of fertilizers
• DO recycle as much as possible and always dispose of garbage properly
• DO avoid the temptation to buy coral jewelry and other products made from marine life
• DO tell your Member of Parliament (MP) to ensure we do everything possible to protect our reefs