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The crumbling coral reef and what you can do to protect it

2013 April 11

Photo taken by John D. Ivanko

By: Liam

When I snorkeled around the coral reef of the Florida Keys, it felt as though I was flying because the water was as clear as air. I felt like I was hovering 15 feet above the ground with fish flying beneath me. I was inspired to learn more about the ecosystem and this is what I learned.

Coral reefs are a unique ecosystem like no other. Some of the fish that live there don’t live anywhere else. Coral is a living animal just like us. They spend their lives on the bottom of the sea. They are an important part of the ecosystem since they provide shelter and food to the fish. 

What problems face coral reefs?

One of the big problems that the reef faces is the exotic and invasive species such as the lionfish. The lionfish got to the reef by extraordinary means.   The problem started when the aquarium trade released lionfish into the wild. Although they have been in Florida for decades the only recently came to the Keys. They are now multiplying quickly.  The lionfish is a predator that eats young fish.  Lots of young fish are unable to survive. The lionfish has poisonous spines along its back.  Not even the sharks dare to attack a lionfish.

Another problem is this beautiful reef has become a tourist destination and some careless tourists will harm the reef. If you step on coral, it will die. With thousands of people going on the reefs every year, it really wears down the reef. Just like everywhere else, Florida also has a problem with people throwing trash into the ocean.

How to help protect the reef and what others are doing

• Eat the Right Fish

A local fisherman and owner of Castaways Restaurant, John Mirabella, spearfishes lionfish and serves it at his restaurant. Although you might not be able to fish the lionfish like John does, you can chose to eat fish that is sustainably raised and harvested. My family uses Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch app for the iPod.  The app shows you what fish are more common and which ones are being overfished so you can make your choice more responsibly. 

 • Travel Responsibly

Use responsible outfitters to go snorkeling. Some outfitters will gather everybody together and tell him or her all about the reefs and how to be careful with the reef and teach you not to damage it.

 • Collect Garbage

This is a very simple one to do.  It takes just minutes but it can save many marine animals’ lives. My family collects bits of plastic and cans when we were at the beach. It is a simple way to protect the animals of the reef.

If you are inspired by this blog, do something to protect and preserve the reef. I hope that you may be interested to help wash the reefs’ problems away.

Bio:  Liam is eleven years old and loves to tinker with technology, read books and go on adventures with his friends. He enjoys exploring nature, writing about it and, most of all, helping protect it.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

19 Responses leave one →
  1. Jan Joannides permalink
    April 12, 2013

    What an awesome article! Thanks for sharing this great info. I’m be sure my kids read it.

  2. Liga permalink
    April 12, 2013

    I saw a TV program about coral reef and I was stunned by it’s beauty and disgusted by how neglectful people are about protecting the natural wonders of this planet. It is really appreciable that young people see these problems and talk about them – educating new generations and making them more aware about the precious things around us will help to save natural beauty.

  3. Randy & Sylvia Downing - Stockton, IL. permalink
    April 12, 2013

    Great job Liam! You are writing about an important issue and did a good job of outlining some of the problems and solutions as well.

  4. Blue Strom permalink
    April 12, 2013

    We here at Shady Blue Acres farm are so proud of you, Liam, for tackling such an important issue! You obviously did your research and learned a lot about the coral reefs, what is harming them, and how to help. Keep up the great work and never stop reading or writing!!! You have many gifts and thank you for sharing them with us and a broader audience. These messages of how to protect and care for our natural environment that we are inherently a part of are so important!!! Thank you for doing your part!

  5. Brenda permalink
    April 12, 2013

    Very nicely written, Liam! I really like how you not only described the problem, but also included a way to help people know if they are eating sustainably for the area.

  6. Brett permalink
    April 12, 2013

    I love the idea of floating with fish flying underneath you! Makes me wish I could have gone. Did you try the lionfish?

  7. Jen permalink
    April 12, 2013

    Articulate article with easy action points. AND it makes me want to go snorkeling. Thanks for your insights!

  8. Anna, The Lemon Lady permalink
    April 12, 2013

    Dear Liam,
    I’ve never been snorkeling, but I plan to take our daughter, Ava someday. You met Ava years ago, during “the lemon lady” interview. I’m impressed at your thoughts and articulate writing for such a young person. Your passion for the environment is commendable! Keep up the blogging and inspiring others. Cheers, Anna and Ava

  9. Betsy permalink
    April 12, 2013

    Great article Liam. I love that you have what we can do as well. Keep up the good work

  10. Beth permalink
    April 12, 2013

    Very well said Liam! Your action items are very do-able and good reminders for all of us.

  11. Jeanne Hechmer permalink
    April 12, 2013

    Very informative article. Thank you for your help in taking care of the environment.

    • Jeanne Hechmer permalink
      April 12, 2013

      Very informative article.

  12. Meleana Judd permalink
    April 12, 2013

    Great article liam, thank you for helping raise awareness about our amazing reefs! I wonder if the reefs you saw in Florida are very different than ours in Hawaii? I also wonder about climate change, maybe you can write your next article about how that affects our reefs! Your friend, Mele

  13. Sharon permalink
    April 14, 2013

    Liam, I will help washing the reef’s problem away by telling my friends what I learned from your article. I only learned about lion fish a couple of days ago on the show “Shark Tank”, and many of the Sharks (investors) had no idea about it. I have learned more about coral reef from you and I wan to snorkel there someday. I really enjoyed your writing too. thx for sharing.

  14. Dan permalink
    April 18, 2013

    Great insight, Liam! I love your description of how you felt while floating over the reef and the fact that you have put so much thought into the life of the reef. Your words are inspiring.

  15. Cabarceno permalink
    April 28, 2013

    Thanks for the post.. i´ve learn a lot with that.

  16. Thomas permalink
    May 16, 2013

    In addition to snorkeling, it’s also important to educate people not to bring motor boats around the coral reefs. The blades can damage the coral and the noise can disturb the wildlife. Coral can also die from being too stressed, which is made more common from coral bleaching, which is when the coral releases the algae that live in its tissues due to warmer water temperatures (note that this isn’t the only reason why coral does this, though). Therefore, you should be more careful with the coral when the water temperatures are warmer because they can have increased stress, which can lead to a much higher mortality rate.

  17. Janell Simpson permalink
    May 21, 2013

    The Monterrey Bay app is not very useful for those of us in Gulf of Mexico region. We need an app to let us know which Gulf seafood is harvested from sustainable fisheries.

  18. Liam Kivirist permalink
    May 27, 2013

    Thanks for your comment, Janell! The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program does have a specific card for the “Southeast” that seems to cover the Gulf region. If not, you can also enter any specific seafood by name to check on it’s rating. Hope that helps.

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