Coral reefs often furnish a number of valuable food species, but unfortunately, humans don’t always manage fisheries responsibly. Consequently, species can become fished out, disturbing the balance of the reef environment. Not only that, but some fishers use destructive practices like adding chemicals to the water to stun fish, deep water trawling or using explosives to quickly startle fish to the surface of the water. These practices damage the coral and harm bycatch — the “useless” species that won’t be harvested. Likewise, crab and lobster traps can damage reefs by banging around in the current and entangling coral and other species in their ropes.
Coastlines tend to make popular places for development. Historically, they were ideal for trade and other activities thanks to their proximity to major ports. Now, coastlines have become one of the most popular places in the world to live thanks to existing settlement and stunning views of the water, along with activities associated with the ocean like surfing, going to the beach and snorkling. Unfortunately for coral, development is bad news, because it increases pressures on already fragile reefs. Some cities that once had thriving reefs now have nothing left, while in other rapidly-developing areas, things are not looking good for coral reefs.
Tourism, closely related to development, is also linked with damage to coral reefs. Tourists who aren’t aware of environmental issues may directly damage coral by stepping on it, harvesting souvenirs to take home, or disrupting the marine environment. Meanwhile, boaters may dump waste in reefs as well as damaging coral by hitting it with propellers and anchors.
Ever get a sunburn? Coral has some natural protections against UV radiation, but it’s not prepared for ozone depletion. As the Earth’s ozone has become thinned in spots, some corals are showing signs of damage caused by UV exposure; it’s not exactly like they can slap on a layer of sunscreen for additional protection in the face of increasing exposure. Like other changes in the Earth’s atmosphere, ozone depletion is hard to fix, and it’s difficult to come up with a way to protect corals from it.
Coral jewelry is just one of many things made from coral. In addition to being used in souvenirs for tourists, coral is also removed for use in making roads, paths and various other products. This is especially common in nations with limited sources of income, which turn to their reefs and other natural wonders to meet their economic needs. Even though this puts substantial pressure on the environment, and eventually depletes reefs, these nations may have no other choice.
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