I love to snorkel. I float on the surface of the water, watching all the activity below. Unfortunately, coral reefs all over the world are in decline. These complex ecosystems are struggling to adapt to the pollution, unregulated harvesting of fish and coral, as well as, climate change. Knowing this, I was surprised to see coral (black, red, gold and pink) jewelry for sale at many shops in Hawai’i. Na Hoku was the only one I visited who does not sell coral. According to a policy posted on the store window as well as online, Na Hoku stopped selling coral jewelry in 2006. They did so because of the damage it was causing to the beautiful reefs of Hawai’i and commendably did so even though it meant a significant financial loss. Thank you Na Hoku for taking action to protect the coral reefs!
In addition to refusing to buy coral of any kind, here are some other things we can do to help the coral reefs all over the world.
1) Do not touch the reef. Coral polyps are fragile. Hitting them with a fin or standing on them will kill them.
2) Buy only farm raised tropical fish for aquariums. Specimens taken from the wild have a high morbidity rate associated with the stress of being netted, transported and then placed in a new environment. According to Snorkel Bob’s, 99% of wild caught fish will die.
3) Use reef safe sunscreen. Wear a protective T-shirt to decrease the need for sunscreen. A recent study found that sunscreen results in coral bleaching. More information at http://www.nature.com/news/2008/080129/full/news.2008.537.html.
4) Keep garbage out of the water. Kauai banned plastic bags because of the damage caused after being ingested by marine animals.
5) Avoid fertilizers and pesticides which gain access into our oceans through runoff.
6) Support organizations such as the Coral Reef Alliance (http://coral.org/ who work to protect our coral reefs.