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Underwater World

The underwater world seen by divers and snorkelers is an extraordinary one. It is a world defined by Jacques Cousteau as very complex, very well defined and very little understood.

Bringing more divers everyday to explore this world are the variety of colours of corals and the life around the reefs that forms a unique panoramic view. It is like sitting at the top of the mountain for a few hours admiring the sight. And most people say –Yes, I was there and I have seen that.

But today this aquatic world is in danger and due to our up close and personal relationship with the underwater world, divers and snorkelers are often the first to recognize habitat decline and contribute to solutions. One of the best solutions to help the environment is educating people on how to protect it. And to protect the underwater world we must understand it.

underwater world, diver over corals

The life of the Coral

A coral is a community of marine's organism called polyp that develop on a reef and as they duplicate they form a coral colony. As the coral colonies grow on top of each other, they gradually form a coral reef. And the coral reef produces a habitat for a great variety of other animals and plants that exist together in harmony in the underwater world.

The coral reef exists only in warm and comparatively shallow water; there is no trace of it at a depth of more than 50 meters or 165 feet. The reason is that coral lives in a symbiotic relationship with some unicellular algae (underwater plants) called zooxanthellae that carry their tissues, which, in addition to acting as a dietetic supplement, serve to rid the coral of certain ammoniac and phosphate wastes. Beyond the depth of 50 m. /165 f., there is no sufficient light for these unicellular algae or another microscopic plants to achieve photosynthesis.

Coral reefs exist over a huge area of the underwater world, and they are the result of a process that has endured for hundreds of millions of years. Based on the way they grow, we can characterize forms of coral reef.

Types of Coral Reefs

Fringing_ReefFringing Reef: located in the tropics generally immediately near the shoreline. This type of coral reef is the most common type that is found around the world.

Because sometimes fringing reefs also create a lagoon between the main lands, one of the ways to separate these two types of reefs is based on the depth of the lagoon. If the water in the lagoon is more than 10m / 33feet deep then it is a barrier reef.

Barrier_Reef Barrier Reef: is a coral reef that forms a barrier between the main land and the sea creating a lagoon. They tend to be farther away from shore.

Platform_ReefPlatform Reef: Platform reefs usually lie in sheltered seas and quite far offshore. They are flat-topped with small and very shallow lagoons.

Reef_AtollAtoll: is an island of coral that encircles a lagoon partially or completely. Usually is the top of underwater volcano, or when an island surrounded by fringing reefs sinks into the sea, or when sea level rises around them.

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How is the coral reef being affected?

Some marine biologist studies have said that the fringing reef grows at a rate of about 2 to 7mm per year along the shore.

Corals are highly sensitive to environmental changes. Too much sediment, sand or mud, in the water can kill them. That is why coral reefs don't grow close to the mouths of rivers. And with the increase of storms, hurricanes and temperature changes in general, many experts have predicted that over 50% of the coral reefs in the underwater world may be destroyed by the year 2030 (that's only 20 years from now).

As proof of this many divers and snorkels have witnessed white corals or coral bleaching that is a vivid sign of corals responding to stress. Once bleaching begins, corals tend to continue to bleach even if the stressor is removed. While most reef areas recovered with relatively low levels of coral death, some locations suffered severe damage, with up to 90% of corals killed.

The environment changes or global warming are not the only causes of corals death. As we mentioned before a coral reef is a habitat for a great variety of other animals and plants that exist together in harmony in the underwater world. But selecting fishing on coral reefs is exterminating one group of fish and making some others to over-populate. Example: fishing lobsters that have in their diet sea urchins creates an over-population of the sea urchins which will walk al over the reef and eat all kind of algae, including the ones that co-exit with the corals.

Other major coral killers are the anchors of boats, the removal of corals for souvenirs or jewelry and the most destructive- the removal of corals for big aquariums and homemade aquariums. Mari-culture operations, including coral farms, make up only a tiny fraction of the total current market on coral trades for aquariums.

Mariculture corals for aquarium

Solutions to save the Corals

Many governments now prohibit removal of coral from reefs to reduce damage on the underwater world and also prohibit the travelers from bringing souvenirs or jewelry made from corals. Some governments have also restricted fishing on areas that are protected much like the designation of national parks. For example the Great Barrier Reef, the Galapagos Islands and Belize's Barrier reef have been designated as protected by nominating then a world heritage site.

There are also many associations that are working in new technologies to increase coral live in the underwater world. Some are very impressive, like: the low electrical voltage on sea water to dissolve minerals like white carbonate (aragonite) that is the same mineral that makes up natural coral reefs. Also Reef balls that are artificial reefs made from balanced micro-silica concrete, and are treated to create a rough surface texture, in order to promote settling by marine organisms such as corals, algae, coralline algae, and sponges.

Ball Reef Ball Reef Ball Reef

Now the big question-how can you help?

It is said that a small effort from each person can make an enormous change. Here are some points from a diver perspective on helping the underwater world.

  • Volunteer.
  • Dive responsibly.
  • Be a protector of the environment.
  • Help educate others.
  • Participate with your local dive center in beach and underwater cleanups in your area.
  • Donate to organizations that are involved in the restoration of the underwater world.

Thanks to our visitors

From one of our visitors (George), we learned that in addition to Reef Balls being used to restore corals, establish new fisheries and shell fish beds, they are used as memorial reefs to commemorate the lives of people with an attachment to the ocean, like divers. Whole families have learned to dive to visit their loved ones memorial.

The organization Eternal Reefs, Inc. creates permanent living legacies that memorialize the passing of a loved one. For families and individuals that choose cremation, Eternal Reefs offers a new memorial choice that replaces cremation urns and ash scattering with a permanent environmental living legacy.

Eternal reefs: Watch the video

Another problem that matters

Plastic Bags

The sad history of harmless plastic disposable bags. Information issued by the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States, reveals that between 500 billion and a trillion plastic bags are consumed each year around the world. 
(National Geographic News September 2, 2003). Less than 1% of the bags are recycled. It is more expensive to recycle a plastic bag than to produce a new one.
If only 1 in 5 people will not used plastic bags in our country we will save 1,330,560,000,000 bags throughout our lives.
 Israel, Canada, Western India, Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Taiwan and Singapore have also banned or are in the process of banning plastic bags.
On March 27, 2007.
 San Francisco became the first U.S. city to ban plastic bags.


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