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  • Writer's pictureSara Strachan

Save Our Reefs

Updated: Jul 5, 2021

Why Protect our Coral Reefs?

Coral reefs only cover 0.0025 percent of the ocean floor, however they generate half of Earth's oxygen and absorb nearly one-third of the carbon dioxide generated from burning fossil fuels.  For this reason alone it is so important to protect this delicate ecosystem. 

Coral reefs contain the most diverse ecosystems on the planet. Here are just a few other things Coral reefs provide:

Provide a buffer , protecting coastlines from the damaging effects of wave action, tropical storms and floodsprovide habitats and shelter for numerous marine organismsspawning and nursery grounds for important fish species; are the source of nitrogen and other essential nutrients for marine food chains

What is coral bleaching?

Fluctuations outside of the normal water temperatures can result in coral bleaching. When water is too warm, corals will expel the algae (zooxanthellae) living in their tissues causing the coral to bleach and turn completely white.  When a coral bleaches, it is not dead. Corals can survive a bleaching event, but they are under more stress and can die as a result. 

In 2005, the U.S. lost half of its coral reefs in the Caribbean in one year due to a massive bleaching event.  Satellite data showed that the thermal stress from the 2005 water temperature increases were greater than the previous 20 years combined.  Data from aerial surveys and dives on the Great Barrier Reef have showed that 93 percent of the world’s largest reef has been devastated by coral bleaching. This has been put down to record warm waters driven by El Niño and climate change.

Not all bleaching events are due to warm water though,  in January 2010, cold water temperatures in the Florida Keys caused a coral bleaching event that resulted in some coral death.

How can we protect our coral reefs?

Avoid touching the coral

With growth rates of 0.3 to 2 centimetres per year for some of the really big corals, and up to 10 centimetres per year for branching corals, it can take up to 10,000 years for a coral reef to form from a group of larvae.  With this in mind we should be careful not to damage these slow growing eco systems.  Propellers and anchors can break apart coral, destroying years, if not decades, of coral growth.  Negligent or unaware snorkelers and divers can also harm corals by touching and standing on them. Even if a coral doesn’t seem to be visibly harmed, human touch can make them more vulnerable to death and disease.  Therefore if you are on a boat trip, enquiring about one or booking through a travel agent, ask if the boat drivers use fixed moorings or throw out an anchor.  The more this subject is raised as being a reason to book a trip or not will influence practices – vote with your feet and support companies who recognise the importance of not throwing out anchors in coral areas. 

Don't litter and take three for the sea

Rubbish can smother corals, they are living organisms and very susceptible to harm.   Littering can

also harm the fish that populate the reefs.  Therefore avoid single use plastics, dispose of rubbish properly and take any rubbish away that you see on the beach, even if it’s not your own.

Wear Reef Safe Sunscreen

Wear reef safe sunscreen for the benefit of your own skin and corals reefs.  Reef safe sunscreen doesn’t include all of the nasty chemicals found in the majority of sunscreens.  The oils from the standard lotions cause reef damage, Sunscreens made with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are mineral-based, so rather than being absorbed like traditional suntan lotion, the particles sit on top of the skin and block harmful UV rays. These ingredients are less harmful to corals and are not linked to coral bleaching.

Oppose global warming

Climate change is an indirect way that people are causing harm to coral reefs. Corals are very sensitive to rising water temperatures, which causes the corals harm.  Therefore reducing your carbon footprint also helps stop global warming and will have an effect on our reef systems.  As little as a one-degree rise in water temperature causes coral reef damage. Coral bleaching is a key indicator that coral reefs are unhealthy, and it's been increasing since the 1980s.  Warmer ocean temperatures can also spur the growth of algae that is harmful to coral reefs because it blocks the sun that they need to thrive.   When oceans heat up, they have more carbon dioxide in them. This slows the growth of coral reefs by making it harder for corals to create calcium carbonate skeletons.

To combat climate change,  switch to power from renewable sources, walk/bike rather than drive,  change to a plant based diet as much as possible and go on holidays closer to home or at least off set your carbon emissions if you do choose to fly. 

Boycott irresponsible fishing methods.

Don’t eat fish caught through bottom trawling methods.  This way of catching fish is devastating to marine bio-diversity, often entrapping all sorts of animals that are not intended for consumption and it can destroy reefs that could live for thousands more years. 

If you consume fish caught in a way that damages coral reefs, you are part of the problem. Not using products obtained through damaging the environment is a way to help protect the reefs. Understand which fish are caught in a way that damages reefs, and spread the word.  If you are going to eat seafood check that it is certified sustainable and find out which species are endangered. 

Support organisations dedicated to protecting coral reefs. 

There are lots of organisations that work to prevent the destruction of and to promote the regeneration of Coral reefs.  The Coral Reef Alliance, Reef Relief, and Planetary Coral Reef Foundation are examples of private organizations trying to save coral reefs. The organizations, and others like them, offer numerous ways for people to get involved. 

Coral Reef Restoration

Coral reef restoration has been happening for decades by growing and stabilising coral fragments and then transplanting onto struggling reef matrix or man-made structures. The idea being that propagation and outplanting of stress-surviving corals speeds up reef recovery, rather than relying on the slower natural process of coral reproduction to replace the dead coral. Hoping that the more resilient corals will fare better with rising sea temperatures.

A recent report by the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NAS) has concluded that human intervention into the restoration of coral reefs is needed to ensure the persistence of the world’s coral reefs, which are of incalculable value to “human well-being, national economies, and future wonder.”

Ocean Boheme has decided to support Marine Conservation charities to help conserve coral reefs and prevent ocean plastics in the marine environment.  Ocean Boheme has committed to a 5% donation of profits towards such charities, however currently over 10% of profits are being donated.  Ocean Boheme is a member of the Surfers Against Sewage 250 club who are grassroots movement tackling plastic pollution and protecting the UK's coastlines for all to enjoy safely and sustainably.  In addition to this Ocean Boheme has started sporadically supporting Coral Gardeners, reef restoration and conservation programme project based in Moorea – French Polynesia.  When you purchase a product from Ocean Boheme you are not only buying something unique and lovely, you are also supporting a small business, an artisan and his family in Indonesia and also a percentage of your purchase is helping improve the marine environment!

 Photography by @veranording @pedrocorreia.photographer @ocean.boheme.images

Models: @adriiwilliams @zmfreespirit @jennifleurgardens7

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