Today’s Editorial December 05: Do your part to protect coral

The photographs on page 1 of the 30 November Caymanian Compass are startling.

We’ve all been told time and time again that our coral reefs are in danger.

Photographs taken by Cathy Church in 2000 and again this year of the Gorgonian Gardens, Orange Canyon in West Bay show the beauty of the coral five years ago and the damage evident today.

While coral damage can be blamed on global warming, the finger of blame for the damage of Cayman’s coral reefs can also be pointed squarely at each of us.

Coral can be damaged from fresh and dirty water that seeps into the sea – water we use and abuse daily.

Over development and urbanisation can also be blamed.

Fertilizer and oil washed into drains that feed into the sea are also a contributing factor to the coral damage problem.

Our corals aren’t lost for good; not yet.

It is up to each of us to make sure that we, on top of the earth, use our natural and manmade resources responsibly to ensure our waste isn’t getting into the sea.

Once a reef is severely damaged, the rest of the ecosystem suffers and the entire habitat may become unattractive.

While there are many factors that can be blamed on coral reef damage, research must be done to find out exactly what is causing harm to our reefs.

We’re awaiting a response from the Department of Environment, which has a scientific coral reef monitoring programme and already may have some of the answers.

Unfortunately coral reef damage isn’t unique to the Cayman Islands; it’s happening worldwide.

A recent article in The New York Times reported findings from a report by the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network that said many Caribbean reefs have seen up to an 80 percent decline in coral cover, and that the marine life and vegetation that scuba divers and snorkellers see today pales in comparison to what they saw in the past.

Ms Church has given us evidence of that with her excellent photography skills.

And she also has a warning for us all when she says that if the coral doesn’t build up faster than it is destroyed, then the sea will erode away our islands.

Coral isn’t just a tourist attraction, she said. It’s the basis of our existence.

She’s right.

As caretakers of the earth, we must all do what we can to help save our coral.

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