Consider corals as a friend who is recovering from illness, and who you are about to visit. This means you need to treat them with care and respect, while enjoying their presence. Anything you can do to reduce your impact on corals helps them to fight more effectively against the “disease”--warming waters, but also pollution and other threats they face.
The Coral Triangle’s reefs are having a hard time. With climate change in full swing, vast swathes of these sensitive organisms are dying as a result of sudden increases in water temperature. Actually, estimates show approximately 10% of the world's coral reefs are now dead.
Not only is the loss of corals inherently sad--it is also bad news for the countless fish species that call reefs their home. Fortunately, as divers, with a little effort we can make things a little easier for them.
The first principle is that you should never touch corals. Why? These are fragile organisms that are susceptible to disease, so every time you come into contact with them you increase the risk of weakening them.
Avoid smothering the coral. When you’re hovering above (proper buoyancy control please!) to admire them, watch out for your fins as they may unintentionally raise a cloud of sand from the sea bottom that could cover the reef.
If you’re diving rather than snorkelling, secure your "dangling bits” (and by that we mean your air source and other gear), that may damage the reef. It is surprisingly easy to break off parts of a coral structure with loose equipment.
That’s it. Keep those tips in mind next time you go under and you’ll be giving reefs a much needed break, while still having a great diving experience. Oh, and did we mention this: “Don’t feed the fish!”