What You Can Do Today To Conserve Coral Reefs for Tomorrow
Reef Awareness Week is here! July 17th - 23rd is a week-long celebration that engages communities and organizations and serves as a platform to raise awareness of our ocean's precious reef ecosystems across the globe.
Coral reefs are some of nature's most beautiful and complex ecosystems. As Earth's largest living structures, corals support diverse communities of fish and other marine life, helping ensure the survival of thousands of plant and animal species around the globe. They also protect shorelines from storm damage, help regulate global climate conditions, and contain over half of all known ocean species biodiversity. Moreover, reefs generate income through tourism and support local economies in areas surrounding coral environments such as the Florida Keys.
There are several ways you can participate in Reef Awareness Week including participation in local events and volunteering your time with conservation groups. You might share your reef aquarium with friends and co-workers as a means to spark interest in the idea of reef restoration and conservation. Even the seemingly smallest effort can make a big impact in the way of helping to secure the health of natural reefs for generations to come!
1. Help Keep Our Beaches and Waterways Clean
Trash and pollution plaguing our oceans, beaches, and freshwater ways contribute to the degradation of reef ecosystems. This can be as simple as using less plastic in your everyday life or getting out there to pick up trash. Either way, your making a positive impact and helping to reduce these negative effects on aquatic ecosystems.
2. Buy Captive-bred and Support Sustainable Livestock Collection
As an aquarist, captive-bred fish and aquacultured corals ultimately help to reduce pressure on wild reef ecosystems. While the wild collection of animals for aquariums is a generally sustainable practice when done properly, captive-bred animals are so much better adapted to life inside an aquarium making them easier to acclimate and maintain as long-term tank inhabitants. When sourcing wild-caught fish, discuss the collection practices and source of the animals with your local fish store or online retailer.
3. Eat Sustainable Seafood
Similarly, eating sustainable seafood is a great way to help reduce pressure on ocean resources, including the reef. Seafoodwatch.org is a great tool created by the Monterey Bay Aquarium that is used to investigate sustainable seafood and help you practice responsible seafood consumption.
4. Educate & Inspire Future Reef Tank Owners
Spreading awareness about reef conservation to children is crucial because they are the future stewards of our planet. By educating them early on, we instill a sense of responsibility and understanding of the importance of protecting and preserving fragile marine ecosystems like coral reefs. Take them to a public aquarium or involve them in your aquarium maintenance and explain why you do the things you do to maintain the health of the tank. Bring them along for volunteer opportunities or make a habit of collecting trash when spending time outdoors at local beaches, lakes, and waterways.
5. Support Conservation Organizations
Reputable organizations that focus on ocean and reef conservation exist on both coasts here in the US but there are also a number of local inland organizations as well that focus on maintaining healthy rivers, lakes, and waterways. Buy and wear merchandise, help spread the word, attend open forums and public meetings, and maybe even sign up to be a volunteer!
6. Participate in citizen science programs
Citizen science programs are so darn cool, especially for those of us who are spending recreational time outdoors and in the ocean anyway. The Coral Restoration Foundation Citizen Science Program is just one example of a group that facilitates the process of using your recreational time for science. Citizen science programs go beyond a typical volunteer program and set up training and objectives for individuals to collect data that ultimately help scientists perform more successful research.
7. Volunteer Your Time
Get involved with conservation efforts and you will be rewarded with the opportunity to build relationships with like-minded people and to make a big impact on the health of our world's oceans. No matter where you live, there is an opportunity to donate your time in a way that will help preserve and restore the health of natural reef ecosystems. After all, all drains lead to the sea, right?
8. Visit a Reef and Practice Reef Etiquette
Sometimes seeing is believing and taking a dive into a thriving reef is probably the most effective way to fully grasp just how incredible these ecosystems are. By taking part in local tourism, you're supporting the communities that rely on the reef economically. Take care to practice reef etiquette and be an ambassador for the reef by helping others to recognize the importance of not damaging the reef when diving. Never rest or step on coral directly and take care to ensure the ocean's currents and surges will keep you (and the corals) out of harm's way.
Donating money, even in small amounts, to reef conservation and restoration efforts is crucial to support the preservation of these vulnerable ecosystems. Every contribution counts and can be used to fund research, conservation projects, and restoration initiatives aimed at protecting and restoring damaged reefs. By donating, individuals can directly contribute to the conservation of marine biodiversity, the preservation of vital habitats, and the safeguarding of the countless species that depend on healthy coral reefs for their survival.
These conservation efforts are happening right here on our home turf too. The Florida Aquarium is a great organization that is working hard to research and preserve the threatened coral that populates the largest reef ecosystem in the continental United States - the Florida Reef Tract. You can learn more about the Coral Conservation Program and even visit the aquarium yourself. See firsthand the culmination of science and the reef aquarium hobby and engage with the scientists who are working hard to preserve our precious reefs for generations to come.