Do you remember your first experience in the ocean? That first peek into an underwater world filled with the most vibrant corals and marine life. It can leave you in awe, and often with a desire to protect this amazing wonder. Unfortunately, scientists now say that coral reefs may be the first ecosystems on Earth to disappear completely. This prognosis is solely due to the actions of humans. Meaning that by making a few changes, we can help prevent further damage and protect our coral reefs. Here, we share a few simple steps you can adopt to become a reef-friendly traveller.
Curb Your Plastic
We all know plastic trash is a problem. You’ve seen the videos and news stories showing marine life caught in debris or who have ingested it. But did you know it can make corals sick as well? By introducing plastics to coral reefs, the risk of disease or infection increases by up to 90%. This is due to two main factors. The first being that sharp fragments can cut and damage their sensitive tissues. Plastics can also smother and block out light and prevent nutrient and oxygen flow. You can participate in the weekly beach clean ups during your visit to Gili Trawangan check out the Gili Eco Trust's website & facebook page for more information and this weeks venue.
Don’t Buy Water
This tip is tied to reducing your plastic consumption, but it’s an important one. Water bottles and cups are one of the most common pieces of plastic littering our beaches and reefs. Often, though, there is no need for travellers to buy water. If you are in a place where you can drink tap water, then do it. In restaurants, ask for boiled or tap water instead of mineral water (depending on the country). Buy less plastic water bottles and refill reusable bottles when you can. If you must buy water, buy bigger size bottles instead of a few smaller ones. Buying bulk, in general, is a great way to reduce waste!
Look But Don’t Touch
The saying is curiosity killed the cat. Unfortunately, curiosity can kill the coral. Comprised of tiny animals called polyps, corals are very sensitive creatures. A simple touch from us humans can expose them to oils and bacteria that are deadly to these fragile animals. So take care when in the water.
When diving or snorkelling, you should always be aware of your surroundings. Ensure you are practising neutral buoyancy and that your gauges and fins aren’t disrupting the environment. You may not be touching the corals, but your fins and equipment may stir up sediment. This can smother corals preventing oxygen flow and blocking light. So always be aware of your surroundings and remember what your mum always told you as a child - “look but don’t touch”
Choose Sustainable Seafood
If you opt to eat fish, make sure you choose sustainable seafood for your meals. Simply by making informed choices about what you eat, you can help save the coral reefs. Roughly one-third of all saltwater fish make their homes amongst the reefs. These fish are integral to the health of the ecosystem. Species such as surgeon and parrot fish ensure algae growth remains in balance. Without them the reefs we love would turn into fields of seaweed and rubble.
Unfortunately, a lot of the fish found at beachside restaurants come from the very reef you have been swimming over.
So before you order, check to see if your travel destination has a sustainable seafood guide. By making informed decisions, and refusing out of season seafood, you can avoid being a part of the problem.
Reef Safe Sunscreen
Scientists have long since reported that coral reefs are suffering at human hands. Due to global climate change, and rising ocean temperatures corals are bleaching at alarming rates. Unfortunately, scientists are now also saying that our sunblock choices may have the same effect. Recent studies have shown that chemically based sunscreens, containing oxybenzone and octinoxate can induce the same bleaching response.
These two compounds are found in roughly 3,500 sunscreen products worldwide. Even in household names such as Tropicana, Banana Boat and Coppertone. When absorbed, these chemicals cause corals to react the same way as prolonged heat stress. If that isn’t worrisome enough, the addition of sunscreen in the water can allow viruses to propagate. When infected it can cause infection in the coral and cause bleaching and death.
As global media coverage and awareness increases, more and more brands are actively avoiding these ingredients. This means it is even easier for travellers to make environmentally conscious decisions and reef-safe choices.
Be a Sustainable Shopper
When shopping for souvenirs be sure to avoid shells and other ocean products. Those pretty little shells on your bracelet or keychain come from molluscs. Molluscs play integral roles in keeping the marine ecosystems balanced. They help to prevent algae overgrowth on reefs. and ultimately they break down into sand and help to maintain the chemical balance of the ocean.
Spread the Word
Last but not least - educate yourself and spread the word! Read everything you can about marine conservation and share this information with others. The more knowledge you have on hand, the better informed your actions will be. And you can make better decisions to save our oceans and reefs!
Choose Responsible Operators
When planning your vacation look for operators that try to limit their impact on reefs. Choose shops that advocate for conservation and make sustainable tourism a part of their business models.
At Manta Dive we are proud to say we actively work on ways to improve our practices both above and below the water. Proud members of both the Gili Eco Trust and Gili Indah Dive Alliance, we know that our industry is here to help educate and advocate for the ocean. If you have any questions on how divers can protect these unique environments, let us know.