Keeping coral reefs alive and healthy

By International Coral Reef Information Network & the Coral Reef Alliance
Photo by Alan Chong

alanchong_coralCoral reefs have existed on earth for over 350 million years, but over a quarter of the world’s reefs have been destroyed and up to 60% of the reefs may be lost by within our lifetime if we don’t take action now. With your help, we can make a difference in keeping the world’s coral reefs alive and healthy. Whether you are going to visit a reef area, live in a reef area or live far away from a reef, you can help protect coral reefs.

I am going to visit a coral reef area:

Visiting a tropical area is a wonderful way to “get away from it all” and relax. But remember: islanders have a more difficult time disposing of their waste. Please try to pack out your old batteries and reduce waste, especially plastic, when possible. Here are some other tips:

  • Try to choose resorts and local businesses that support coral reef protection.
  • Avoid buying souvenirs made from coral or other marine organisms.
  • Coral reef organisms are very delicate. Please:
  • do not disturb or harass marine life
  • do not remove marine life from its natural habitat or shells
  • do not step on or touch coral
  • do not stir up sediment near coral
  • Support local initiatives by paying conservation fees, even if they are voluntary

I am far away from a coral reef. How can I help?

Just following one of these suggestions helps coral reefs:

  • Follow the three R’s whenever possible: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle
  • Save energy in your home by using compact fluorescent bulbs, energy efficient appliances, wrapping your water heater to save heat, run dishwashers and washing machines with full loads.
  • Try to reduce fossil fuel emissions by driving less (combine errands when possible, join a car pool, take public transportation), walking or biking instead of driving, purchasing fuel-efficient vehicles.

In your home: wherever possible, use least toxic household products such as

  • cleaning products– look for non-petroleum-based surfactants, that are chlorine and phosphate free and that claim to be “non toxic” and biodegradable;
  • water based, low biocide, low VOC paints;
  • use compost to fertilise your garden and leave grass clipping on your lawn to reduce the need for fertilisers.
  • Try to purchase organic, locally grown produce. When you buy food produced near your home, less energy is used to transport food to your area. And pesticides can eventually drain into the ocean so organic food is better for the environment. Also, think about how much packaging is used in your food products: the more packaging, the more waste.

I live in a coral reef area:

Use the guidelines above and here are a few extra tips:

  • Reduce the amount of plastic trash that you generate by buying in bulk when possible. Plastic, in particular, can be very harmful to marine life. It decomposes into small pellets that can concentrate pollutants like DDT. Many seabirds that breed on or near coral islands and atolls ingest plastic debris. Turtles drown when eating plastic bags that they mistake for jellyfish.
  • Learn about ways you can join local volunteer projects to help protect your marine environment.
  • Learn about and obey local laws designed to protect coral reefs and coral reef habitats.