Editorial for June 18: Help protect coral reefs

The news for our coral reefs isn’t
good.

They have been infected with a
disease called the white plague.

Everyone in the Caribbean had
previous warning about this disease, which spreads when water temperatures
rise.

And while we can blame the
bleaching on increased water temperature, we can blame the further reduction of
corals on ourselves.

Once corals become damaged they are
more susceptible to other stresses in the water.

Harmful runoff from our Islands
goes into the sea and creates bacteria that can move in and further damage the
reefs.

Other threats to coral reefs
include overfishing, uncontrolled coastal development, water pollution,
sedimentation, dredging, dynamiting, spear fishing, oil spills, ship wrecks and
boat anchors.

We know the waters off the Cayman
Islands have been overfished, we know there is water pollution and boat anchors
are a constant problem. There is talk about dredging the North Sound and off
East End. It is hoped that thorough and proper study is done on that activity
and its threat to our reefs before it begins.

Divers can also be a threat to
coral reefs if they are allowed to touch them with their hands or diving
equipment. Most dive operations in the Cayman Islands warn divers against this
activity.

And while storms can be especially
hazardous to coral reefs, it is ironic that the severe hurricane season
predicted for our region could bring cooler waters and lead to an abrupt decline
in diseased coral.

Coral reefs are extremely important
to our existence in the Cayman Islands and throughout the world. They’re called
the rainforests of the sea because they are home to a vast variety of plants
and animals. Some reefs around the world are also sources of food, medicine and
other daily use products.

They provide vital marine
ecosystems for fisheries and wildlife and draw tourists.

Coral reefs protect
coastal shorelines from eroding by absorbing the impact of stronger, more
destructive waves.

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