Life is better in colour: Coral Bleaching Awareness Month
This November is the first ever Coral Bleaching Awareness Month.
Coral bleaching is occurring at an alarming rate, and it’s our ocean’s desperate cry for help.
For the month of November, we've joined the Coral Reef Alliance in solidarity for coral reef conservation and in honour of Coral Bleaching Awareness month.
Coral bleaching doesn't always mean the death of corals. By taking action now, we can help corals adapt to rising temperatures and endure bleaching events to come.
1. Check your sunscreen
The golden rule when spending time in the sun is to cover-up and sunscreen-up. These tips are generally the best when it comes to protecting our skin from potentially harmful UVA and UVB rays and the secondary health impacts they may cause, such as skin cancer.
There tips are now well-known. Perhaps less-known it the harmful effect that the personal care products, including sunscreen, are having on our marine environment….
It has been well documented over recent years that alongside climate change and warming sea temperatures, sunscreen has been a major contributor to the decline of coral reefs.
Sailors, we need to switch our sunscreen!
Sunscreen is made up of a variety of substances and chemical stabilisers which are geared to reflect, scatter or absorb UV light and whilst sunscreen is helpful in protecting our skin against the sun, but it isn’t a natural substance nor native to our ocean environments.
Anything we apply to our bodies is either absorbed or washed off when we bath, shower or swim. So, when we wash ourselves off on our boats, with sunscreen on, the water heads straight to the bilge then is usually pumped out into the sea. Similarly, when swimming with sunscreen on, particularly in shallow areas and high-use beauty spots, sunscreen contaminates the water.
According to research up to 14,000 TONS of sunscreen ended up on coral reefs across the world every year.
The result of sunscreen in water = bleaching coral and negative impacts on the biodiversity of our seas and proper functioning of our reef ecosystems.
Read more about the impacts of our sunscreen and how to choose smarter, here:
2. Get inspired, watch a movie
Chasing Coral, which is available on Netflix - a poignant and deep discovery into the dramatically changes occurring on the reefs. A real (albeit sometimes emotional!) education.
3. The unsung heroes: protecting Herbivore fish
Coral reefs are essential to the health of our oceans and our planet, and a big step forward is protecting fish populations. Herbivore fish in particular emerge as unsung heroes, playing a pivotal role in maintaining the delicate balance that sustains these vibrant reefs.
Herbivorous fish are voracious grazers, constantly feeding on algae that grow on coral reefs. Algae, when left uncontrolled, can outcompete corals for space and sunlight, eventually smothering them. By keeping algae in check, herbivore fish help to maintain the growth and vitality of corals, ensuring the reef ecosystem thrives.
While herbivore fish are indispensable guardians of coral reefs, their populations face numerous threats, with overfishing being one of the most pressing concerns.
Overfishing disrupts the natural balance within herbivore communities, leading to a decrease in their numbers. When these essential fish are overharvested, the algae they would have consumed takes over. As a result, corals become vulnerable, facing increased competition for space and sunlight, and are more susceptible to diseases. The ramifications of overfishing echo through the entire ecosystem, impacting not only the herbivore fish but also the corals, other marine life, and, ultimately, the communities that depend on these reefs for their livelihoods.
Pollution, including agricultural runoff, plastic waste, and chemicals, can contaminate the water, disrupting the delicate balance of the reef ecosystem. Prolonged exposure to pollutants weakens the immunity of corals and herbivore fish, making them more susceptible to diseases and other stressors.
Climate change exacerbates these challenges. Rising sea temperatures due to global warming cause coral bleaching, a phenomenon where corals expel the symbiotic algae living in their tissues, leaving them vulnerable and colorless. Ocean acidification, another consequence of climate change, hampers the ability of corals to build their calcium carbonate skeletons, making them weaker and more susceptible to damage.
What makes these threats particularly concerning is their interconnected nature. Overfishing weakens herbivore fish populations, making them less resilient to other stressors such as pollution and climate change. Likewise, the impacts of pollution and climate change, such as coral bleaching and weakened corals, create additional challenges for herbivore fish by reducing the availability of suitable habitats and food sources.
Supporting sustainable fisheries, eating line-caught fish only and ensuring we moderate our fish consumption can help greatly in preserving species that in turn, help sustain our global coral reefs.
For more on the work of the Coral Reef Alliance and how we can all help better protect our global reef systems, head to their site, here: