Hawaiian Monk Seal  Photo by: Julie GardnerPhoto By: Julie Gardner

The ocean is a busy place! I have heard the coral reef be compared to a bustling city, with activity such as sound, competition, mating, feeding and regular residents that form a community. If you can relate to this odd correlation, then corals are the structures that make it all possible- the buildings, so to speak – that are the apex of the habitat. It all starts with a a single polyp, forming structures that are micro-food factories. For humans, they play an important role as 500 million people worldwide depend on the coral reef for their livelihood. Reefs also create a natural breakwater and corals are being researched for use in the pharmaceutical industry for their enzymes in the fight against cancer.  What is amazing about corals is that they have no life expectancy and are perpetual machines of efficiency as long as their environment allows.

Photo By: Tara Leota

Smothering Seaweed

Photo By: Julie Gardner

Anchor Damage

Unfortunately, stress factors throughout the world, such as ocean toxicity due to climate change, and overfishing of herbivores – who control the algae which inhibits the much slower growing coral – have had a major impact on our coral reefs. Alien seaweeds such as smothering seaweed, oxybenzone in sunscreens, coastal run-off and anchor damage are also some of the reasons we have seen a demise in coral reefs on our planet. But the purpose of this blog is not to dwell on the doomsday that is so prevalent in our lives right now. I aim to inform, educate and implore you to be optimistic that it is not too late to take action. It will take a collective effort to change the damage done.  We humans have the resources, brains and technology to make a difference!

10 things we can do protect Hawai’i’s coral reefs:

  • Don’t pollute. Start at home and community. Just disposing of our trash and plastic properly is big!
  • Volunteer. Shoreline and Reef Cleanups have been popping up throughout our country. Surf Riders and other non-profits have events that always need volunteer involvement.   It’s very rewarding to give our time and skill sets toward coral recovery.
  • Learn more about our reefs. Get in the ocean! Become familiar with the habitat and report anomalies like coral disease or alien species of algae. Inform yourself!
  • Get involved in the legislative process. Your vote counts! We need leaders who care about our ecosystem and quality of watersheds.
  • Never anchor directly on reefs. Use the states day-use mooring system or anchor in sand.
  • Report. Dumping, poaching or other unusual coastal run-off dumping sediment over reefs.
  • Promote responsible development.  Overbuilding and increased population can have devastating impacts on the marine environment.
  • Support conservation organizations. Share in these programs with your time or money which enhances their ability to educate and inform others.
  • Resource stewardship. Learn the rules about fishing and gathering. Minimize your impact, only take what you will eat.
  • Spread the word. Help to promote awareness of this fragile habitat and share your excitement with others.