People protect what they love, it is that simple. Many of us share an incredible love and respect for our oceans, coral reefs and marine life. “Coral reefs are the largest living structure on the planet, and the only living structure to be visible from space” (IYOR). Coral reefs have been in existence and evolved on earth over the past 200 to 300 million years. (IYOR) Right now, coral reefs are more vulnerable than ever before. Coral reefs are degrading because of arising changes in their natural environment and the disruption of the balance of the ocean. The accumulation of stressors are having a profound effect upon coral reefs putting them in a precarious state. Some of the major threats coral reefs face right now are: ocean acidification, coral bleaching, over-fishing, pollution, coral diseases, invasive species and coastal developments. Coral reefs are disappearing at an unprecedented rate. This results in the loss of precious ecosystems and habitats for marine life. Coral reefs play an integral role in maintaining the balance of the ocean, ecosystems and healthy fish populations. Everything is interconnected and if one component of the chain begins to falter it will impose repercussions. Hence, it is important to prevent the disruption of the balance of coral reef ecosystems. We cannot afford to lose coral reefs.
Now more than ever, there is an urgency to increase the number of and/size of marine protected areas. Marine protected areas have proven successful in the recovery of declining fish and populations and fragile coral reefs. “On 14 December 2016 – Since April, an unprecedented 3.6 million square kilometres of ocean – an area larger than India – have been designated as marine protected areas (MPAs), meaning for the first time, more than 5% of the world’s oceans are now protected” (UN Environment). This is a positive stride forward for ocean conservation and it is encouraging. There is still so much more of the ocean that is in need of being protected. As there continues to be an increase in marine protected areas, critical and fragile ecosystems will have an opportunity to recover.
Snapshots of Paradise
Paradise is worth protecting. That being said, for some of us, our paradise is the ocean. A fundamental component of our underwater paradise is flourishing coral reefs with an abundance of marine life. In the spirit of this year being declared the International Year of the Reef, we invite you to take the challenge to share on social media snapshots of your underwater paradise that is worth protecting. Share your favourite snorkel and dive sites, epic encounters with stingrays, turtles, sharks and other marine life. The goal is to simply use photography and film to raise awareness for our precious marine environment. Start today and share photos of your underwater paradise, and of course on World Oceans Day. We encourage ocean lovers around the world to share snapshots of their underwater paradise to bring attention to the important need to protect coral reefs and fragile ecosystems on a global scale.
Below are some suggested hashtags to spread the love for your underwater paradise and the treasures of the ocean:
8 Ways you can directly help coral reefs
- Take part in a Coral Nursery Program. In the Cayman Islands, Eco Divers Reef Foundation have an excellent program in place. To learn more, click here.
- Wear ocean-friendly sunscreen.
- Respect marine life and coral reefs.
- Nominate Hope Spots to protect fragile and/or critical coral reefs and ecosystems.
- Share photos of coral reefs to raise awareness through social media.
- Participate in beach cleanups and dives to remove plastic from the ocean and off the beaches.
- Eat sustainably.
- Watch the documentary Chasing Coral