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

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.

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