Florida’s Coral Reef is the third-largest coral system in the world, behind the Great Barrier Reef and the Belize Barrier Reef — and we could lose it soon if we don’t act.
I went ocean snorkeling for the first time and saw this AMAZING coral reef, surrounded by schools of fish — but then I saw the white patches of coral and was reminded of coral bleaching. How could I not be?
Here’s a coral bleaching explainer.
Very simply — when it gets too hot and ocean temperatures spike, the algae that give coral their color expels, leaving white coral carcasses at the bottom of the ocean.
Seriously, let’s talk about sunscreen while we’re here. Key West and other communities close to coral reefs have banned sunscreen with harmful chemicals in them (if you can’t put them in the ocean/near fish, should you be putting them on your skin anyway?) to help take away one of the “stressors” coral reefs are facing.
When we went out on our trip, our guide said we were ONLY allowed to use reef-safe sunscreen, and examined our bottle. Those who didn’t have reef-safe sunscreen were encouraged not to use sunscreen at all.
Stressed out yet? Not as stressed as the oceans. 2018 was the hottest year on record for the world’s oceans, and 2019 isn’t getting any cooler.
It’s not all bad news:
“The most important thing that we can do as residents is to try and minimize our impact by cleaning up our water,” says Rachel Brewton, a research coordinator at Florida Atlantic University and study co-author. Individuals, she says, can start with managing the fertilizers they put on their lawns. (NPR)
So there are things we can do: limit fertilizer and runoff entering our oceans, stop wearing harmful sunscreen, demand action on overfishing, and continue to address plastic pollution entering our waterways.
We as consumers can choose what fish we eat with this Seafood Watch Guide — it helps with overfishing by helping you choose the most sustainable choice in fish for your plate.
There are also scientists who are rebuilding corals and coral reefs (in Australia) in an attempt to reintroduce them to the wild.