- Dave Groebel
Efforts In The Virgin Islands To Save Our Coral Reefs
Coral reefs are ecosystems teeming with diversity, color, value, and life. With thousands of species living on a single reef alone, they provide protection for both water and land animals, support the production of both food and medicine, and even work to quell wave energy that could otherwise destroy coastal areas across the globe.
The great barrier reef alone is home to over 400 coral species, nearly 1500 species of fish, and 6 of the world’s seven sea turtle species. Coral reefs are estimated to be valued at nearly $6 trillion each year, given their contributions to the fishing industry, tourism opportunities, and the coastal protection they almost effortlessly provide.
More dependent than we know
Nearly 500 million people are dependent on coastal reefs for food, jobs, and even coastal defense. Extracts from animals and plants living in coral reefs have been used to create valuable substances used to treat arthritis, asthma, heart disease, and cancer. With all these benefits to be had from fostering healthy coral reefs, we need to be made more aware of the dangers that threaten their survival.
Like any thriving ecosystem, coral reefs are proficient at adapting to certain impacts and environmental conditions that threaten their survival. When is too much going to tip the scales, however? What issues threaten to destroy these wonders of biodiversity and life?
Physical damage–Activities such as dredging, quarrying, and destructive fishing practices all break down coral reef structures, resulting in a breakdown of the conditions in which certain animals and plants thrive.
Pollution–Try as we might to keep our coastal waters clean, some issues compromise water quality which, in turn, harms coral reef environments. Substances such as industrial chemicals, fertilizer, trash, and pathogens all threaten to break down delicate structures that rely on one another for survival.
Overfishing–Stripping an area of fish populations can cause a decrease in the number of native species that are relied upon to keep coral free from invasive species. Blast fishing is particularly harmful, as explosions used to kill fish can also damage delicate coral structures.
Coral harvesting–Harvesting coral for aquariums, jewelry, and curios can lead to the destruction of a biologically-diverse habitat, causing a gradual breakdown of the entire system.
What’s being done in the Virgin Islands to protect coral reef environments?
Once teeming with life, the reefs around St. John’s and the Virgin Islands have a marked decrease in the number of diverse life forms that swirl amidst the coral. A once ignorant tourist population is now beginning to realize that the consequences of their actions have impacted this ecosystem. In order to protect life on this planet as a whole, we must work to restore these systems and bring them back to life. How can we do this?
Steps to protect our coral reefs
In a booming tourist economy such as the Virgin Islands, scientists are employing measures to analyze the current health of these delicate systems and suggest steps for improving health and balance for each coral bank. Just a few of these measures include:
Antibiotic and probiotic administration
While the data from scientists will be a valuable part of cleaning up and restoring coral reefs, we must also educate people with regard to how critical these ecosystems are and what we can do to continue to support the ongoing health of these reefs. Virgin Islands tourist industry is releasing information and recommendations to tourists and locals as steps we can all take to protect and preserve these systems. Some of these action steps include:
Being mindful of powerboat use when in close proximity to reef banks
Rinsing snorkel equipment when moving from one body of water to another
Refraining from breaking off coral or taking plants from a bank
Using island-approved sunscreen and sunblock to prevent harmful chemicals from impacting coral structures and regional wildlife
Promoting eco-tourism as a way of becoming more educated about reef ecosystems
One great way to get educated!
Alpha Submarine Adventures will begin operating in the Summer of 2022 from Crown Bay Center with up to six dives a day to beautiful Sprat Bay off Water Island. Their submarine tours are an initiative that is at the forefront of eco-tourism; they combine fresh entertainment opportunities for tourists and blend eco-friendly education to form an “up close and personal” experience that is environmentally safe. Invest in your planet while experiencing a one-of-a-kind submarine tour of these stunning coral reefs and all the wonder they hold. Visit https://www.eco-alphasub.com/ for more information.