Caption: Sea turtles easily mistake plastic bags for jellyfish (World Wildlife Fund photo).
By Nature Foundation St. Maarten
Welcome back to your Coral Education Series from Nature Foundation St. Maarten! In this series, you have learned the basics and importance of coral reefs, as well as the things that threaten their survival!
We told you how important corals are to our daily lives and that they are under threat to disappear completely within our lifetime! So it is time to talk about what you can do to help Save St. Maarten’s Coral Reefs!
One very easy thing you can do is to reduce the amount of plastic you use! Things like plastic sacks and plastic straws are called single-use plastic (items made from plastic that are used once and then thrown away).
There are many places around the world that are banning the use of these items due to their huge negative impact on our planet. Plastic does not bio-degrade, so even though it might break up into small pieces (called micro-plastics), it never really goes away. It can be ingested by marine life and even end up in the food we eat!
To help keep these plastics out of our ocean, you can do a few simple things:
- Take a reusable cloth bag to the grocery store!
If you forget your bag, ask for a box or carry small things in your hands! Plastic bags are a huge problem in the ocean. Turtles can mistake them for jelly fish and eat them, birds or marine life can accidentally ingest them, and they wrap around corals and smother the coral polyps.
- Skip the straw.
When you get a drink from the store or at a restaurant, tell them you do NOT want a straw. Plastic straws get used only one time, and are then thrown away. It is very wasteful! Drink directly from the glass, or switch to sustainable alternatives like paper, metal, or silicone straws that can be cleaned and reused!
- Pick sustainable products!
When shopping, stop and take a look at how things are packaged and what they are made out of. These days, many things are wrapped in plastic when it isn’t necessary. Take one day to notice how much plastic you use throughout the day, then try to use a little less the next day, and the day after that a little bit less.
The following are other things you can do to help Save St. Maarten’s Coral Reefs:
- Use reef-friendly sunscreen!
You learned in the last issue that there are several chemicals found in sunscreens that are toxic to corals. You can find some sunscreens that are made with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. These minerals do not harm the corals and are safe to use!
- Reduce your wastewater production.
It is important to never let our wastewater (used water from toilets, showers and drains) enter the ocean directly. If your home uses a septic tank, it needs to be pumped regularly and not overflow. You can reduce the amount of water going into the septic by doing things like turning off the water while you brush your teeth!
- Spread the word!
Lots of people don’t know that our corals are dying. Share the information you have learned with your friends and family so they can make changes in their daily lives too.
There are lots of simple things you can do to help Save St. Maarten’s Coral Reefs! It is up to all of us to do our part to protect our natural resources!