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Protect corals as a tourist

Tag icon Education
  • Tropical beach (Ameen Fahmy/Unsplash)
  • A grouper (Vlad Tchompalov/Unsplash)
  • (Paul Selvaggio)
  • A school of reef fish (Jamie Craggs)
  • Boat (Raining Huang/Unsplash)
Tropical holidays may be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, especially when exploring the magical underwater world of coral reefs for the first time!

Regardless whether you stay near a coral reef or are just a day trip visitor, there are a few straightforward actions you can do to become an eco-friendly traveler and help to protect corals―as well as conserve natural resources, protect plants and wildlife, and contribute to the well-being of local communities.

Start with some research about your hotel or tour operator before booking. It’s easy, as usually if they do any green initiatives or other concrete measures to help sustainable tourism, the respective info is given right away on their website. You may check the Global Sustainable Tourism Council for further advice.

Here are a few suggestions on how you can act as a responsible traveler:

Avoid buying coral or other marine life souvenirs such as shells or dried specimens; without people buying it there is no need to collect tons of marine specimens each year for selling it to tourists.

You can use reef-friendly sunscreen, which does not contain oxybenzone and octinoxate, but only environmentally friendly substances to protect your skin from harmful UV radiation. In warm waters, an oxybenzone concentration of around 400 parts per trillion (ppt) over several days is enough to induce coral bleaching ("Sunscreen wipes out corals") For instance, in the waters off the most popular beaches of the Hawaiian island of Maui, scientists detected oxybenzone contamination of up to 4,000 (ppt), because the sunscreen washes off people’s skin and out into the reefs when they snorkel or swim ("Hawaii seeks to ban 'reef-unfriendly' sunscreen").

If you love to fish, look-up fishing regulations before you head out to the sea. Many fish species such as parrotfishes, grouper and surgeonfishes are so-called grazers that eat algae and keep coral reefs healthy. They suppress macroalgal cover, minimize coral-algal competition, increase coral growth and recruitment, and help coral populations to recover after disturbances such as hurricanes. You don’t want them removed from the reef.

If you love to eat fish, check the fishing season schedule as well. Don’t buy or order reef fish species during closing season. Those fish have been caught illegally.

To go diving or snorkeling, a sustainable operator may be the best choice! You can read more info about being sustainable underwater in the respective article.

If you own a boat or rent one, enjoy sailing in a way that will not harm coral reefs. That includes actions like:

  • Avoid spillage or leakage of oil and gas.
  • Dispose your sewage in a proper way. Use pumpout facilities instead of discharging the sewage into the ocean.
  • Avoid greywater, since it often contains chemicals that are harmful to the environment.
    Clean your boat with fresh water – if you have to use cleaning products, use eco-friendly ones.
  • Do not anchor on coral reefs! Anchors are heavy and often have a long chain attached. When dropped onto fragile corals or seagrass beds, it causes significant ecological damage. If the boat sways, the anchor chain is dragged over the reef.

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SECORE's lead partners are:

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium
California Academy of Science
The Nature Conservancy

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