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CAN WE SAVE OUR CORAL REEFS?

Everyday humans are destroying live coral, depleting our fisheries, contaminating coastal and offshore waters, and wreaking havoc on the life of our planet. We need not forget that the ocean is the source that gave us life and is now threatened by mankind. Our oceans are being polluted at alarming rates. We are losing species to never see them again. Every year hundreds of marine animals and large tracts of coral reefs are killed because of careless people leaving trash on the beaches, throwing garbage overboard or choosing products that are not environmentally friendly. Coral reefs are the oasis of the oceans, providing habitats for countless ocean inhabitants and thriving best in low nutrient water. However, most reefs are threatened with extinction if not already extinct

Since coral reefs depend on photosynthesis for survival, relatively clear water is needed for optimal coral reef development. Harmful algae blooms, caused by pollution and global warming, are to blame for a large percentage of the destroyed reefs. Humans are responsible for the fact that these algae have turned into a truly dangerous threat to the reefs in recent years. In times of increased pollution, the algae thrives and spreads like wildfire. A high abundance of algae can block sunlight and consume oxygen, two vital requirements for a healthy coral reef. Overgrowing the reefs, the algae prevents the supply of food and light, thus destroying any live tissue. Environmental pollution and warming of the oceans destroy the ecological balance in the reef and toxic industrial waste destroys the corals' ability to defend itself. Toxic waste is the most harmful form of pollution to the marine creatures and humans alike. Once a form of toxic waste affects an organism it quickly gets passed along the food chain. Once this has happened it could end up as seafood and humans in return are consuming their own waste. This has caused birth defects, nervous system damage and death in humans.

Overfishing has become a huge problem and could possibly have been the start of the destruction of our oceans. Once again mankind is to blame. Overfishing of sea otters has caused exploding sea urchin populations. Overfishing of sea turtles, which eat only plants, prevent the turtle grass from staying short. Overfishing of oysters has caused low oxygen levels and other symptoms of nutrient pollution because the oysters no longer filter the water. Mankind needs to come to an understanding that the "boundless" oceans have limits. They cannot provide unlimited fish, nor can they absorb unlimited wastes from human activities. Toxic algae blooms threaten the marine ecology and human health in many coastal areas, and unchecked coastal development can stress ocean and coastal habitats beyond their limits.

We need to take control of our harmful actions. The destruction of the reefs will have unpredictable consequences for the entire ecosystem of our oceans and it has to stop before it's too late. Although, it is already too late for many species, we must save what we have left. There are many things we can do to help to reverse the damage that has been done. We must quit polluting, dumping, overfishing and destroying our reefs. And, we need to stop using products that are going to destroy the greatest life on the planet-- our oceans.

Choosing environmentally friendly products can be complicated. Almost every chemical and substance on our planet will eventually biodegrade. The important questions are "when" and "into what". While ideally, we would like to see a rapid break down into Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and Water (H2O), many products break down into material more dangerous than the original chemicals. Concerned consumers must look beyond a claim of "biodegradable" on a product label. On the local level, education is a tool that has the greatest chance of saving our precious reefs and oceans.

Written by: Jaimee Berg & Tom Covert,


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