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Underwater & Island Ecology

Slow Life from Daniel Stoupin on Vimeo.

One of the many fascinations of exploring tropical waters is to appreciate the beauty and diversity of life on and around the coral reefs. Multicolored corals of great size and shape along with hundreds of species of fish, sponges, invertebrates and anemones act as a backdrop for divers and snorkelers who slip beneath the surface to explore the secrets of the deep. 

As sailors, we possess a heightened awareness of the aquatic environment and therefore we logically assume an ongoing moral obligation to help protect and restore the health of these fragile eco-system for future generations.

CowfishMarine ecosystems are extremely important for the overall health of both marine and terrestrial environments. According to the World Resource Center, coastal habitats alone account for approximately 1/3 of all marine biological productivity and estuarine ecosystems (i.e., salt marshes, seagrasses, mangrove forests) are among the most productive regions on the planet. In addition, other marine ecosystems such as coral reefs, provide food and shelter to the highest levels of marine diversity in the world.

Although human impacts on the Caribbean reef system predate the arrival of European settlers in the 15th. century, it is only since the 1970s that large declines in coral cover across the region have occurred. These declines were due, in part, to outbreaks of disease which impacted much of the branching corals and spiny sea urchins during the late 70s and early 80s. Overfishing and land-based run-off due to human development fundamentally weakened the ability of the reefs to recover from these impacts.

As stewards of the marine environment, we sailors have not always been as “green”as we would like to think of ourselves. We have pumped sewage overboard, operated gas and diesel equipment that pollutes both water and air, used toxic paints to retard marine growth and utilized cleaning products that are not always environmentally friendly. It is time that we all take up the banner of protection, educate ourselves and our crew and do our small part to minimize further impact.

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