Reefs Need Heroes
WHY CORAL REEFS MATTER
My first open ocean dive was in Grand Cayman in 2014, chosen because it was easy to get to and offered good diving for beginners. My scuba certification in landlocked Colorado took place in an aquarium – cramped quarters, real fish, and lovely, artificial corals. When I jumped off the boat into the deep blue that first time, my mind was blown – so much room and really everything! My passion for scuba was ignited and I dove whenever and wherever I could.
Even as a novice diver though, I couldn’t help but notice dead corals and an ocean in trouble. On a trip to the Philippines, I saw fields of discarded plastic covering sea beds. Entire species responsible for building reefs were only rarely seen across the Caribbean except in coral ‘boneyards’.
Widespread, careless, recreational fishing and rapid construction and development contributed to the destruction of the Meso-American reef system I saw diving in Honduras.
But then I dove Jardines de la Reina in Cuba, and I was overwhelmed by what I saw: – a healthy reef and ocean ecosystem. Though Cuba is impacted by global factors affecting all the world’s oceans, the reef system we dove was vibrant and alive. There were fish the size of small cars swimming by the Seussical towers of corals. On every dive, we saw an amazing amount of healthy everything. Off-shore Cuban waters are, without pesticides, fertilizers and recreational recklessness, without widespread pollution and careless construction, even with global warming and ocean acidification offer reefs a fighting chance at Survival.
Coral reefs are the most diverse ecosystems on earth, the backbone of life in the oceans, and vital to all life on our planet. It takes thousands of years for coral thickets to grow into a reef and yet, in just the last 35 years, 98% of reef-building hard corals have been destroyed in the Caribbean Sea. Once I saw what a healthy marine ecosystem could be, I knew I had to do something to help preserve, protect, and restore the others.
When I learned about a Coral Restoration Certification program in Curaçao with Ocean Encounters and I signed up on the spot. This non-profit works to regrow Staghorn, Elkhorn, and Brain corals, from pieces of coral called ‘frags’. They have ‘outplanted’ over 7,500 corals in underwater nurseries, creating thickets that will merge together and become reefs someday.
I will share more about coral restoration and individuals, organizations, businesses, and governments working to preserve and restore reefs on this site. Follow our blog, and become a part of our mission.
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