Coral reefs are the most biodiverse ecosystems on earth. They provide a home for a vast number of species and also protect our coastlines from storms and erosion. However, coral reefs are under threat, with coral bleaching affecting 90% of the coral reefs surveyed in the Great Barrier Reef this year, and more than 75% of reefs face bleaching globally.
What Is Coral Bleaching And Why Is It So Bad?
To understand coral bleaching, we first have to understand coral biology. Coral is an animal that has a photosynthetic micro-algae called zooxanthellae living inside its tissues. The zooxanthellae and coral have a symbiotic mutualistic relationship, with the coral gaining approximately 80% of its food from the zooxanthellae. The zooxanthellae also provide the coral with its color.
However, when the ocean conditions change, either due to increased temperature, light, or sedimentation, corals come under stress, and the relationship between the coral and zooxanthellae begins to break down. The corals then expel the zooxanthellae, turning white, and can no longer support themselves with enough food.
The leading cause of coral bleaching is climate change, but scientists also found that certain chemicals such as Oxybenzone, used in sunscreen, can make them more vulnerable to global warming. Other reasons for coral decline include harmful fishing practices such as bottom trawling and the use of dynamites, anchor damage, pollution, and reckless behaviour such as standing on corals.
How Can You Help The Reefs From Further Damage?
- Use reef-safe sunscreen: many brands are committed to protecting our seas and have mineral, chemical-free sunscreen
- Avoid single-use plastic: coral can ingest microplastic and think it’s food.
- When you visit the Gili Islands, make sure you support our Plastic Free Paradise Campaign
- Eat sustainably fished seafood and be aware of what you are putting on your plate
- Minimize the use of fertilizers: excess nutrients change the balance of the ocean
- Practice safe and responsible diving and avoid touching anything underwater: oils and bacteria on our fingers cause damage to the reef
- Avoid using an anchor while out in the water: use mooring buoys
- Use less water: wastewater runoff could enter our seas
- Be an example by showing others how it can be done! You can act as role model for the other travelers who will witness your eco-friendly practices and will want to do the same. Show the community you are visiting that you care by demonstrating and easily explaining why the use of plastic is a bad thing for the environment.
- Sponsor a Coral Catch Superwoman
Little by little, changes will happen. Little by little, a little becomes a lot. And little by little, good practices will only encourage others to do the same. The key to change is awareness and education, feel free to share ; – )
The Shark Team.