April Second Place

Our second favourite entry for this month was by Molly Hutchins – congratulations!

The White Reef – By Molly Hutchins

There is something mesmerizing about the ocean. The sound of the waves on the shore, the gentle caress as you swim, the peace that you feel when you first dip beneath the surface. There is nothing that quite compares to the open ocean in its vast beauty. Even more incredible are the colours you see when you first dive, the multitude of corals that provide homes to the reef fish and the sheer variety of species. 

 Coral Reefs are truly the rainforests of the oceans, home to millions of different species and a resting and breeding ground for thousands more. I can still remember the first Coral Reef I ever saw and there is nothing more breathtaking than seeing so many different animals and corals living together in symbiosis. Seeing visiting giants arrive to hunt or be cleaned as well as dolphins frolicking nearby is something that is unforgettable. 

 Equally unforgettable is seeing a bleached reef. The stark white and greys that are the complete opposite of their healthy counterparts, the lack of fish and the sheer lack of life that once made them so vibrant completely devastated mostly due to humans and our impact on the oceans. A true ocean graveyard and we are responsible. 

 There are many reasons that corals can bleach their algae (Zooxanthellae) but most of them are linked to stress and to being damaged. Rising sea temperatures due to increased CO2 emissions and global warming are the most publicized cause but not necessarily the most damaging. 

 Anyone who has been diving has seen the damage that sea trawlers can cause when they drag along the ocean’s floor, fishermen who care only about filling quotas and making profit, blast fishing that destroys the corals and stuns and kills the fish to such an extent that there are more fish killed than are needed and the damage to the coral results in large parts of the reef bleaching so there are even fewer fish in the future so they damage larger and larger parts of the reef to get the same amount of fish that used to be abundant until the reef can no longer cope and dies. The world’s industrial fishing companies are a multi-billion pound per year industry regardless of the damage it can do to our oceans and the animals inside it. 

 Millions of people around the world eat Seafood and in more recent years people have been trying to do it sustainably by buying MSC approved or Dolphin safe fish, however there is no such thing. The labels themselves are there to appeal to a select audience. What is the maximum number of dolphins that can be killed for tuna to be dolphin safe? The answer should be 0 but there isn’t a maximum put in place to get the certification which means that the dolphin safe tuna could have killed just as many if not more than the next brand that isn’t dolphin safe. 

 It is this lack of care and lack of education that is devastating our oceans, when you remove the top predators from an environment; sharks, dolphins, whales, it causes repercussions all the way down the food chain resulting in catastrophic consequences. Without the ocean giants to corral their numbers larger fish can devastate smaller fish populations which can have a disastrous effect on reef fish that care for and maintain the reefs they live on. Without coral reefs there will be no oceans and without oceans there is no life. 

 We have a limited amount of time left before the damage we do is irreversible so now is the time for us to make choices. We need to greatly reduce our seafood consumption until such a time as it can truly be sustainable. People need to eat less and pick only species that are not endangered. Countries like New Zealand and Australia eat local species that are high in abundance such as Kingfish and Snapper instead of the endangered species like Haddock and Cod and they have very strict measures put in place for bycatch and size of fish that are caught even on their larger industrial vessels. 

 We need to start now to rectify the problems, we need to lobby the world’s governments to put stricter policies in place for fishing, we need to reduce global consumption on an enormous scale and we need to help support damaged and destroyed coral reefs by re-introducing hardy coral species to the reef. There are many charities and universities that are growing corals in the open ocean and then introducing them back into a reef that has been decimated by coral bleaching. 

 For every fish that is caught and for every ocean trawler that is on the sea there should be money going towards rebuilding corals, there are lots of companies that try to offset their carbon footprint by planting more trees in the Amazon and other parts of South America so why shouldn’t the big fisheries companies do the same by replanting coral? Especially when oral Reefs and the Ocean contain more than 4 times the amount of Carbon than all of the Earth’s rainforests? Education is a key factor in saving any species, but it is even more important when people are completely ignorant of the facts due to lack of information available. If people can’t see the problem, it is very easy for them to pretend it doesn’t exist. 

 If we want to save the most incredible and vital of all of the Earths environments, then we need to wake up and act now. Before we are too late to save the ocean and therefore are too late to save ourselves. 

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