From the fury of its waves to the calmness of its vast glimmering blue, the ocean, though mysterious and threatening, never ceases to amaze us. Covering over 70% of earth’s surface, this blue blanket of wonders is the source of 50% of the world’s oxygen and is the regulator of our climate and weather patterns. Needless to say, the ocean is one of our planet’s most valuable and important ecosystems. Beneath the calming surface of quiet ebbs and flows, hides one of the most complex and diverse ecosystems in the world: coral reefs. Aptly called the “rainforests of the sea”, these labyrinths of living limestone provide food and habitat for over 25% of marine species and are paramount for the flow of the ocean’s food chain, which not only feeds marine sea life but also billions of people and supports countless local and global economies. Unfortunately, Over 75% of the world’s coral reefs are at risk of deathly deterioration and, per usual, humans are to blame. These fragile ecosystems are severely threatened and are quickly perishing due to climate change, overfishing, bleaching, toxic chemicals poured into the ocean, irresponsible touristic behaviors and pollution. These issues have raised global awareness and luckily, there has been an uprising of initiatives and conservation projects in many countries who are actively trying to stop coral reef endangerment.
What’s being done
Due to their beauty and photogenic attractiveness, coral reefs are often the center point of many touristic endeavors and the tropical destinations that host these important ecosystems, have the topmost responsibility of enforcing the conservation efforts needed to solve the problem.
Home of the second largest coral barrier reef in the world, Belize has been making headway as the first country in the world to put a moratorium on all offshore oil drilling. Hotels and resorts have been creating programs, enforcing initiatives, and educating guests on the importance of preserving endangered reefs. Hamanasi Resort, in particular, is an eco-friendly hotel that has been launching countless efforts to stop and prevent coral reef deterioration as well as systematic oceanic breakdown and overall environmental endangerment. Hamanasi has banned all single-use plastics and Styrofoam from their property, opting instead for the use of biodegradable bamboo straws and reusable containers and utensils. They also aim to educate guests and their children about their choices, no matter how small, have an impact on the environment. Hamanasi has been a very vocal and hands-on advocate of the need for eco-friendly sunscreens and they have actively banned the use of non-reef safe sunscreens and lotions. They have also partnered with All Good reef-friendly sunscreens in an effort to promote, encourage and educate their guests on the importance of reef-safe products. This last initiative is the most influential one so far if we consider that, according to National Geographic, 14,000 tons of sunscreen are washed into the oceans each year and 82,000 chemicals from personal-care products are contaminating the seas.
The importance of these types of initiatives is of the utmost importance for the preservation of all marine life due to their reach and scope of influence. To ensure the consistency of these practices, make sure to always seek out eco-friendly accommodation and local tour guides and businesses and stay away from unhealthy practices that will further increase environmental damage.
What we can do to help
Despite the severity of the situation, there are several changes we can make that will prove effective in the saving of the coral reefs and the prevention of further damage.
- Minimize the use of fertilizer and pesticides
These chemicals harm water quality because substances like nitrogen and phosphorus are washed into waterways and eventually end up in oceans where they spread and are highly toxic to corals and marine life.
- Choose sustainable seafood
If you must eat seafood, make sure that it is caught or farmed with minimal environmental and social impacts.
- Wear reef-safe sunscreen
As we already mentioned above, choose a sunscreen that is free of harmful chemicals that are toxic to reefs and all marine life.
and spread the word
Seek out hotels or organizations that support cleaning and conservation efforts aimed at protecting marine life. Educate and be vocal bout the impact of our behaviors on the environment and the importance of being responsible tourists.
If you want to help and be more vocal in an effort to helps stop and prevent further reef damage, be sure to visit Safe The Reef and get more involved now!