2018 is the International Year of the Reef – let’s start with the basics

To kick of 2018 being the INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF THE REEF.. let’s start with the basics: why are coral reefs important?
Well the fact is.. we humans need coral reefs for everything from food to money, protection and medicine! From the basics to the essentials… all is provided by the world’s coral reefs.

CORAL REEFS PROVIDE US WITH FOOD: You, me and the person next you need to eat.  And coral reefs are vital to the world’s fisheries!  They are nurseries for 1/4 of the ocean’s fish, and provide revenue at every level from local communities, to entire countries to international fishing fleets. Approximately ONE BILLION (that’s 1 in every 7.6 people) have some dependence on coral reefs for food and income from fishing. If properly managed, reefs can yield around 15 tonnes of fish and other seafood per square kilometre each year (www.wwf.org).  All the more need to take care of them.. we’d literally go hungry without!

CORAL REEFS PROVIDE FOR US FINANCIALLY: It goes without saying… healthy reefs = healthy tourism = healthy economy.  The Great Barrier Reef in Australia generates more than 1.5 BILLION USD every year for the Australian economy, from fishing and tourism.  Everyone benefits from a healthy reef.. from the diving operators to the local bar to the hotels and car rental, a healthy reef means many livelihoods are supported.  Therefore it makes sense that coral reef based tourism must be sustainable wherever it exists, with reef health as a priority in order for all those that depend upon its economy for their livelihoods.  This is particularly important in poorer coastal communities in developing countries where coral reef tourism it provides majority income. 

CORAL REEFS KEEP US SAFE.  They protect our coastlines and homes from powerful waves during storms, hurricanes, typhoons, and even tsunamis! Coral reefs also prevent coastal erosion; saving us billions in terms of insurance and reconstruction costs. Without coral reefs.. all those homes and businesses with a beautiful sea or cliff view would be at risk!

Image: NASA terra satellite, source EarthWeek

But the females also love to call in at ‘home’
When it’s time to lay their eggs, female sea turtles return to the same nesting beach where they were born.. this makes protecting these beaches critically important in the sea turtle conservation.

And the males spend their entire lives at sea! Since they don’t have to return to land to lay eggs, males spend most of their life in the sea.  This makes it very difficult to keep track of the male population.

CORAL REEFS MAKE US HAPPY: For anyone who has ever dipped their face beneath the surface… there is a deep seated emotion brought forth from the sight of a beautiful and healthy reef.  We can’t help but be moved by all the life and vibrant colour… we just love them, and feel the same awe and amazement as a small child at christmas.  For many coastal societies around the world, coral reefs and their inhabitants are also intricately tied to cultural traditions.  For these people, and for any diver, snorkeler or nature lover, a world without coral reefs would be a poorer and sadder place to be.

So all in all, coral reefs are not simply places upon which we dive, snorkel and recreate… they are essential to our survival! With 2018 being the International Year of the Reef, it is our hope that more and more people become aware of this simple fact, and make small changes in their day to day lives to help the struggling reefs recover, and the pristine reefs thrive!

Text: Lynn Lawrance

So ultimately, it serves us well to protect sea turtles;  to lose a species that has been on earth for 100 million years, after just a few decades of human influence, could be considered nothing short of a tragedy.

Text: Lynn Lawrance