By Anna Lynn Sibal
Beach resorts and tourism boards of countries in the tropical and subtropical regions often use diving as one of their come-ons for tourists to visit them. When they do, they are banking on the beauty of the coral reefs fringing their shoreline or located just a little off the shore.
It is always a pleasure to go diving and experience for ourselves the exquisite wonder possessed by coral reefs. But even as we partake of this pleasure, we should remember that anything we do as we go diving can affect the delicate nature of the coral reefs and that it is our responsibility as the caretakers of this world to protect them.
Why Protect Coral Reefs
Two-thirds of our planet is covered in water. Oceans make up most of our planet. It may surprise you to know that even though coral reefs occupy around only 1% of the Earth’s surface, it is one of the largest ecosystems on the planet, second only to the rainforests. Around 25% of all marine life forms call coral reefs their home.
Ideally, we should have a symbiotic, mutually beneficial relationship with coral reefs. That the coral reefs should be in a healthy condition is vital to sustaining life in the seas. Aside from supporting life in the seas, we also depend greatly on coral reefs. At least 500 million people all over the world rely on coral reefs for their food and livelihood. Among the other benefits that man gets from coral reefs, scientific research has also revealed the usefulness of coral in treating various illnesses in humans. If the coral reefs are given the care and protection that they need and deserve, we can be sure that the diverse life underneath the seas of our planet will remain alive and thriving for years and years to come.
Unfortunately, the destructive practices of man have put coral reefs in danger. Unethical fishing practices such as dynamite fishing, the pollution of the seas, among other factors, have all contributed to the degradation of coral reefs. As for divers, there have been some who have been irresponsible in their visits to coral reefs, disturbing or even killing the creatures living there and breaking off pieces of coral as souvenirs.
Practicing Ethical Diving
It is perfectly alright for us to visit coral reefs when we dive. It is the best way to appreciate the beauty of the coral reefs and to understand the vital role that they play in our lives.
To play our part in protecting coral reefs, we should exercise intelligent and responsible decision-making in our diving. We could start right at the moment that we begin planning for our diving holiday to the tropics.
There are so many places where we can go if we want diving to be the highlight of our holiday. Some of the best beaches where diving is a delightful experience are the Bahamas, the South Pacific Islands, Australia and Southeast Asia. Southeast Asia actually has the densest concentration of corals in the world. Unfortunately, this is also where the most damage to them has been done.
When we go on a diving vacation, we should make sure that we do our diving only with ethical diving operators. We should spend our diving vacations in marine sanctuaries where we have to pay a fee to be able to dive. We would be spending money on a good cause because those fees would go to the upkeep of the sanctuaries and to the protection of the coral reefs.
Once we are in the water, we should respect the marine life we find in the coral reefs we visit. We should minimize contact with both the corals and the creatures living there, and we should not pick up anything aside from any garbage that we find there.
Coral reefs are more vital to our existence than we may realize. We should do our part in protecting them consciously and constantly.