Coral reefs are diverse and important marine ecosystems, supporting a wide array of wildlife. Not only do they provide essential structure for habitats, but corals themselves are a unique and beautiful type of animal. Unfortunately, corals don’t have it easy. These animals are very sensitive to changes in their environment and are under threat by a preventable problem: marine debris.
Debris can damage sensitive reef habitats, crushing or smothering the corals that are the building block of the reefs. Derelict fishing gear, or fishing gear that has been lost or abandoned, can be especially harmful. Thankfully, this is a completely preventable problem and we can all help to reduce these impacts! Remember your “4Rs” (reduce, reuse, recycle, refuse) to minimize your contribution to marine debris. Make sure you’re responsible with your trash and when fishing, make sure none of your gear gets left behind. If you don’t know how to properly use your gear or dispose of your trash, please educate yourself! By working to increase our own awareness of the issue and educating others about how they can help, we can prevent more trash and worn-out fishing gear from becoming marine debris. For the debris that’s already out there, participating in cleanup efforts can help stop it from further damaging sensitive habitats and harming wildlife. By reducing the debris that ends up in our ocean, either by preventing it from getting into the environment in the first place or picking it up on the shore, we can help prevent it from harming our beautiful coral reefs.
Don’t forget, we created the problem and we can all be part of the solution! Debris from inland sources can travel far and can still become marine debris, so just because you don’t live near the shore or near a beautiful coral reef doesn’t mean that you can’t help! Let’s all do our part to keep our ocean beautiful.