Natural Resources Protective Association: Protecting the marine environment since 1977

Protect Marine Resources

Beaches, coral reefs, wetlands, and surrounding waters provide homes for millions of species. Nearly 50 percent of the bird species in North America rely upon wetlands for some aspect of their nesting or feeding. Coral reefs are home to more than 25 percent of all marine species. Beaches and coastal habitats are a popular destination for people to take vacations and enjoy watching a variety of marine wildlife. Many of these places are threatened by development, introduced species, pollution, and various human activities. Here are some ways in which you can make a difference.

Share the beach

  • If you spot a nesting habitat—whether it be sea turtles or wood storks—give it some consideration. Moving your beach blanket 20 or 30 yards down the strand will allow the wildlife ample room to breathe.
  • Watch where you walk. To you it may simply look like miles and miles of sand. But to millions of tiny crustaceans, reptiles, and insects, it’s home sweet home.
  • Clean up your site. Contrary to popular belief, the beach will not simply be wiped clean after high tide. Pack out food wrappers, empty beverage containers, and other seaside accoutrements when you leave. Sea turtles have evolved to eat anything in the oceans, even the poisonous Portuguese Man-of-War, but when turtles and other marine life eat plastics and other garbage, they risk fatal blockage of their digestive tracts. Trash also can cover coral reefs and block the sunlight they need to survive.
  • Keep your dog on a leash at all times. Even if it is your best friend, your pet may be a nuisance to other beach-goers and may also disturb nesting birds and other marine mammals.
  • Avoid driving all-terrain vehicles on the beach. They’re dirty, unsightly, loud, and completely unnecessary. They don’t belong on the beach, and the damage they do is often irreparable.

Respect marine resources

  • Coral reefs may take hundreds, even thousands, of years to form, typically growing as slowly as 5 millimeters and no more than 20 centimeters per year. Coral reefs evolved 200 million years ago. Today, most reefs are between 5,000 and 10,000 years old. Mere contact with a foreign object can devastate coral. When diving or snorkeling near coral reefs, do not touch, stand or walk on, kick, or collect coral. Make sure none of your equipment bumps into the coral. Read some snorkeling tips.
  • Although they may be beautiful, do not purchase items made from coral or other threatened marine life. Avoid coral jewelry or other marine souvenirs unless you are certain that they were farmed or produced in aquaculture operations.
  • If you own a tropical aquarium, demand that your aquarium store purchase only fish that have been certified “cyanide free.” In many areas of the world, tropical fish are collected from coral reefs by releasing cyanide poison into the water, which kills the reef and many other marine species and stuns valuable fish for easy collection. Don’t purchase coral pieces or “live rock” for your tank unless there is proof they were not removed from the wild.
  • Avoid restaurant meals of turtle, shark fin, or other threatened wildlife. Your choice lowers the demand for these creatures and sends a message that you respect sea life. Keep in mind that, when commercial operators collect shrimp, billions of pounds of fish, sharks, and seabirds die after being caught accidentally.
  • If you operate a boat, navigate carefully to avoid contact with coral reefs, never drop anchor onto a reef, and never dump trash or sewage into the water.

Day-to-day differences you can make

  • Conserve water. Turn the water off when scrubbing dishes or brushing your teeth, take shorter showers, and water your lawn in the early morning or late evening.
  • Contact conservation groups in your area so that you may better familiarize yourself with local concerns. Over the past 30 years, agricultural development has been responsible for close to 90 percent of our lost wetlands. Find out what’s going on locally to save what little remains.
  • Educate others. Make sure that the issues of coral reef and wetlands conservation and ecosystem protection are part of your kids’ curriculum at school.
  • Make your vote count. Bring environmental issues into the voting booth with you.

Source: National Parks Conservation Association