If you’ve been to the beach you’ve probably encountered vendors selling cheap trinkets and souvenirs, including those made from coral. They’re pretty, aren’t they? Tourists love to scoop them up for little money. But stop for a moment and think about what’s going on.
Scientists estimate that a full twenty percent of the world’s coral reefs have already been lost. They are threatened by climate change, pollution, destructive fishing, acidification of the oceans (a byproduct of too much carbon dioxide in the air), and tourism–including chunks of them being hauled away for jewelry and decorative items. The Trade Environment Database (TED) estimates that 3.3 million pounds (1.5 million kilograms) of corals and pieces of reef are removed from the ocean each year.
This has got to stop! Coral reefs are the foundation of the oceans’ fragile ecosystems. Untold numbers of small plants and animals use them as their homes, and serve as sources of food and shelter all the way up the marine food chain. If the coral reefs disappear entirely, which certainly appears possible, it will cause unimaginable damage and create graveyards out of our planet’s waters.
By buying souvenirs made of coral you are unwittingly contributing to the loss of one of the world’s most important ecosystems. Here are some tips suggested by Seaweb for helping to preserve precious reefs:
- Don’t purchase products made from real coral. Buy things inspired by coral rather than being made from or derived from them.
- If you snorkel or dive, don’t collect pieces of coral or reef creatures. In fact, please don’t even touch them!
- Make a pledge to take action to preserve the world’s corals. Sign Too Precious To Wear’s coral pledge. In addition to pledging to leave coral alone, the pledge also supports strong legislation. It seeks to reauthorize the US Coral Reef Conservation Act, and add red and pink coral to the International Trade in Endangered Species list so as to provide needed monitoring and oversight of what’s currently an unregulated coral trade.
- Contact your congressman and ask him or her to support the legislation mentioned in the pledge.
Too Precious To Wear is a campaign to create a demand for coral conservation. They deserve your support. They also offer decor that is inspired by but not taken from coral.
So if you’re headed to the beach this summer and see those coral trinkets, you know what to do. If you’re brave, let anyone nearby who’s thinking of purchasing them know the truth behind what they’re buying. It’s not too late to save the coral reefs if we dedicate ourselves to the things we need to do to stop them from being destroyed.