The underwater world seen
divers and snorkelers is an extraordinary one. It is a world defined by
Jacques Cousteau as very complex, very well defined and very little
Bringing more divers everyday to explore this world are the variety of
colours of corals and the life around the reefs that forms a unique
panoramic view. It is like sitting at the top of the mountain for a few
hours admiring the sight. And most people say –Yes, I was there and I
have seen that.
But today this aquatic world is in danger and due to our up close and
personal relationship with the underwater world, divers and snorkelers
are often the first to recognize habitat decline and contribute to
solutions. One of the best solutions to help the environment is
educating people on how to protect it. And to protect the underwater
world we must understand it.
life of the Coral
A coral is a community of marine's organism called polyp that develop
on a reef and as they duplicate they form a coral colony. As the coral
colonies grow on top of each other, they gradually form a coral reef.
And the coral reef produces a habitat for a great variety of other
animals and plants that exist together in harmony in the underwater
The coral reef exists only in warm and comparatively shallow water;
there is no trace of it at a depth of more than 50 meters or 165 feet.
The reason is that coral lives in a symbiotic relationship with some
unicellular algae (underwater plants) called zooxanthellae
that carry their tissues, which, in addition to acting as a dietetic
supplement, serve to rid the coral of certain ammoniac and phosphate
wastes. Beyond the depth of 50 m. /165 f., there is no sufficient light
for these unicellular algae or another microscopic plants to achieve
Coral reefs exist over a huge area of the underwater world, and they
are the result of a process that has endured for hundreds of millions
of years. Based on the way they grow, we can characterize forms of
Types of Coral Reefs
located in the tropics generally immediately near the shoreline. This
type of coral reef is the most common type that is found around the
Because sometimes fringing reefs also create a lagoon between the main
lands, one of the ways to separate these two types of reefs is based on
the depth of the lagoon. If the water in the lagoon is more than 10m /
33feet deep then it is a barrier reef.
Barrier Reef: is a
coral reef that forms a barrier between the main land and the sea
creating a lagoon. They tend to be farther away from shore.
Platform reefs usually lie in sheltered seas and quite far offshore.
They are flat-topped with small and very shallow lagoons.
Atoll: is an island
of coral that encircles a lagoon partially or completely. Usually is
the top of underwater volcano, or when an island surrounded by fringing
reefs sinks into the sea, or when sea level rises around them.
Some marine biologist studies have said that the fringing reef grows at
a rate of about 2 to 7mm per year along the shore.
Corals are highly sensitive to environmental changes. Too much
sediment, sand or mud, in the water can kill them. That is why coral
reefs don't grow close to the mouths of rivers. And with the increase
of storms, hurricanes and temperature changes in general, many experts
have predicted that over 50% of the coral reefs in the underwater world
may be destroyed by the year 2030 (that's only 20 years from now).
As proof of this many divers and snorkels have witnessed white corals
or coral bleaching that is a vivid sign of corals responding to stress.
Once bleaching begins, corals tend to continue to bleach even if the
stressor is removed. While most reef areas recovered with relatively
low levels of coral death, some locations suffered severe damage, with
up to 90% of corals killed.
The environment changes or global warming are not the only causes of
corals death. As we mentioned before a coral reef is a habitat for a
great variety of other animals and plants that exist together in
harmony in the underwater world. But selecting fishing on coral
reefs is exterminating one group of fish and
making some others to over-populate. Example: fishing lobsters that
have in their diet sea urchins creates an over-population of the sea
urchins which will walk al over the reef and eat all kind of
algae, including the ones that co-exit with the corals.
Other major coral killers are the anchors of boats, the removal of
corals for souvenirs or jewelry and the most destructive- the removal
of corals for big aquariums and homemade
operations, including coral farms, make up only a tiny
fraction of the total current market on coral trades for
to save the Corals
Many governments now prohibit removal of coral from reefs to reduce
damage on the underwater world and also prohibit the travelers from
bringing souvenirs or jewelry made from corals. Some governments have
also restricted fishing on areas that are protected much like the
designation of national parks. For example the Great Barrier Reef, the
Galapagos Islands and Belize's Barrier reef have been designated as
protected by nominating then a world heritage site.
There are also many associations that are working in new technologies
to increase coral live in the underwater world. Some are very
impressive, like: the low electrical voltage on sea water to dissolve
minerals like white carbonate (aragonite) that is the same mineral that
makes up natural coral reefs. Also Reef balls that are artificial reefs
made from balanced micro-silica concrete, and are treated to create a
rough surface texture, in order to promote settling by marine organisms
such as corals, algae, coralline algae, and sponges.
the big question-how can you help?
It is said that a small effort from each person can make an enormous
change. Here are some points from a diver perspective on helping the
Be a protector of the environment.
Help educate others.
Participate with your local dive center in beach and underwater cleanups in your area.
Donate to organizations that are involved in the restoration of the
to our visitors
one of our visitors (George), we learned that in addition to Reef Balls
being used to restore corals, establish new fisheries and shell fish
beds, they are used as memorial reefs to commemorate the lives of
people with an attachment to the ocean, like divers. Whole families
have learned to dive to visit their loved ones memorial.
The organization Eternal
Reefs, Inc. creates
permanent living legacies that memorialize the passing of a loved one.
For families and individuals that choose cremation, Eternal Reefs
offers a new memorial choice that replaces cremation urns and ash
scattering with a permanent environmental living legacy.
reefs: Watch the video
problem that matters
sad history of harmless plastic disposable bags. Information issued by
Environmental Protection Agency of the United States, reveals that
billion and a trillion plastic bags are consumed each year around the
Geographic News September 2, 2003). Less than 1% of the bags are
recycled. It is more expensive to recycle
plastic bag than to produce a new one.
only 1 in 5 people will not used plastic bags in our country we will
1,330,560,000,000 bags throughout our lives.
Israel, Canada, Western India, Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania,
and Singapore have also banned or are in the process of banning plastic
On March 27, 2007.
San Francisco became the first U.S. city to ban