Coral and Tropical Beaches
Imagine you are walking along a sandy beach on a South Pacific island and you find coral washed up on shore. Is it okay to pick it up and carry it home with you? This dilemma faced a friend of mine recently. So I asked the Coral Reef Alliance, and here’s their answer.
All parts of an ecosystem, whether living or not, are part of and play a role in the larger ecosystem. Pieces of coral on a beach are eventually weathered by waves and create new sand to replenish the beaches. Although some local subsistence communities remove small amounts of coral from beaches, the removals become a problem on a larger scale. If most tourists who visit a beach take away pieces of coral, it could have a significant impact on the ecosystem. Through time, the amount of sand on the beach would likely decrease.
So what else should someone know about dealing with coral in a romantic tropical location? The Coral Reef Alliance offers the following advice.
Support the local ecosystem when you shop and consider the effect your purchases are having on the nearby ocean. Resist buying coral jewellery – because there is no sustainable way to harvest corals without damaging critical marine ecosystems. Reefs are suffering bleaching and other challenges, and red and pink coral are seriously threatened. If you want bling resembling coral, look for certified faux coral and coral-inspired alternatives which are as attractive as real coral but are sustainable.
Enjoy viewing coral through a glass bottomed boat, and if you go diving or snorkeling be good to the coral. Don’t step on it – coral’s a living organism and being stepped on can harm it. Also, don’t stir up sediment near the coral, which might be considered equivalent to stirring up dust clouds near humans. Besides, it’s hard for you to see much through a sediment haze.
Look for tour guides and dive leaders who include information about reef ecology and provide related guidelines. Tours that enhance visitor awareness and understanding of the local coral reef ecosystems make visiting a coral reef a richer experience in which both the visitors and the coral benefit.
More information is available on the Coral Reef Alliance’s website, including a coral reef photo contest. For those of you who are southward bound to some warm tropical beach, Enjoy!