Coral reefs around the world are in danger. Local and global stressors such as climate change, ocean acidification and land pollution are causing our reefs to disappear at an alarming rate. These living structures support one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet and are home to thousands of species; from anemones, to fish, to sea turtles. Not only are coral reefs teeming with marine life, but they have direct benefits for people, too. Coastal and inland communities rely on these underwater cities for food, personal enjoyment, tourism, and shoreline protection.
Tourism and fishing are often the main source of food and jobs for island and coastal areas, supporting around 3.2 billion people worldwide. Not only do reefs sustain economies, but they also act as a shield from harsh wave energy, decreasing erosion and protecting fragile dune ecosystems. Some major current threats to coral reefs are warming ocean temperatures causing a phenomenon called coral bleaching, ocean acidification which weakens coral skeletons, water pollution that suffocates zooxanthellae causing them to leave the coral skeleton, and overfishing which can disrupt the balance of the entire ecosystem by reducing herbivorous fish that keep the coral clean.
This year, on World Oceans Day, we encourage you to think about ways you can help protect coral reefs!
- Using rashguards and reef safe sunscreen is a great first step to eco-friendly snorkeling. Avoid sunscreens with chemicals like oxybenzone and octinoxate, as science has shown these ingredients are harmful to coral. Look for mineral-based sunscreens with active ingredients such as titanium and/or zinc oxide. For the month of June, if your sunscreen contains oxybenzone or octinoxate, you can turn it in at our Ma‘alaea Ocean Store and purchase reef-safe sunscreen from Hawaiian Sol, sold at cost, for a free Pacific Whale Foundation tote bag.
- Being mindful of where you’re kicking, standing or touching can help keep our coral from breaking. Coral are living animals and are extremely fragile.
- Disposing of trash and recycling in their proper receptacles can help keep trash out of oceans and off of coral reefs. This should be a common practice no matter if you are on the coast or in a landlocked area; it all could end up as marine debris!
- Your choices matter! Support responsible ecotourism and environmental organizations who work to protect marine ecosystems. Join us on your next visit to Maui to experience one of our educational PacWhale Eco-Adventures and snorkel with the conservation experts!
- Volunteer with our partner organization Coral Reef Alliance through our Volunteers on Vacation program. You will help revegetate stream banks with native plants, create sand bag corridors, and take part in other fun stream restoration activities in the West Maui Mountains. Revegetating eroding landscapes with plants can stabilize soil and prevent pollutants from reaching the ocean.
Mahalo for helping us protect Maui’s coral reefs!