Coral Reef Pollution

WAVES Volunteer Trina continues her series pertaining to our oceans. Coral Reef Pollution is one she feels passionate about, she presents the concerns and some practical solutions.

As human population and development expands in coastal areas, the landscape is altered, increasing land-based sources of pollution and threatening coral reef health. When sediment, asphalt, and other pollutants enter the water, they attack coral reefs, kill the bacteria that coral need to live, speed the growth of damaging algae, and lower water quality. Pollution can also make corals more susceptible to disease which can slow or even stop coral growth and reproduction, and cause changes in food structures on the reef.


Underwater view of dead coral reefs and beautiful fishes. Maldives, Indian ocean
Photo ID 138485833 © Alexander Shapovalov – Dreamstime.com

Coral reefs need clean, clear water to survive. Despite our best efforts we need to do more! You might be thinking what can I do? I try my best, I try to help whenever I can; how is that not enough? What you’re doing is great but you’re not everyone. If we all work together we may be able to save the reefs! Here’s some things we can do to help.

Healthy Coral Reefs are our goal.

Coral reefs and fish at the red sea in Egypt, photo ID 18002037 © Milllda | Dreamstime.com
  • Practice safe and responsible diving and snorkeling.  Avoid touching reefs or anchoring your boat on the reef. Contact with the reef will damage the delicate coral animals, and anchoring on the reef can kill corals, so look for sandy bottom or use moorings, if available.
  • Take a reef-friendly approach to sun protection.  Some ingredients in sunscreen can be harmful to or even kill corals. Inform yourself of safer choices for coral. Better yet, cut down on sunscreen use by wearing a long-sleeved shirt or rash guard to prevent sunburn.
  • Recycle and dispose of trash properly.  Marine debris can be harmful to coral reefs. Recycle your trash at home and on the go (especially plastic), and remember the three R’s (reduce, reuse, and recycle). When disposing of trash, do it properly in bins, to avoid trash being blown or washed away into waterways and oceans. On beaches, make sure you leave no trash behind, and never throw or leave any cigarette butts in the sand. You can help keep your rivers and streams clean by volunteering to pick up trash in your community. Check with your local environmental organizations for annual trash clean ups and make sure to check the annual International Coastal Cleanup.
  • Minimize use of fertilizers. The overuse of fertilizers on lawns harm water quality because nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) from the fertilizer are washed into waterways and eventually end up in oceans. These nutrients pollute the water and can harm coral reefs.
  • Use environmentally-friendly modes of transportation.  Instead of driving a car, try to walk, bike, or use public transport (like buses and trains) more often. If you are planning to buy a car, choose a fuel-efficient vehicle like a hybrid or electric car. Using these cleaner transportation methods can help reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses that are emitted into the atmosphere. These emissions contribute to ocean acidification and increased ocean temperature. More acidic ocean waters impede coral growth and warmer waters cause coral bleaching.
  • Reduce storm water runoff.  Reducing storm water runoff can help prevent water pollution, reduce flooding, and protect our water resources. Homeowners can install water catchments or rain gardens and use rain barrels to collect rainwater that would otherwise be diverted to storm drains.
  • Save energy at home and at work.  You can save energy at home by turning off lights and electronic devices when not using them and opting to buy energy-efficient appliances such as energy saving appliances. At work, try to turn the lights and your computer off when you leave.

          If we can try to do these things every day we will save the reefs!!!

WAVES Volunteer and SCUBA Diver – Trina,

age 13