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Please Don’t Walk on the Coral

12 Jun

Growing up in Ontario, Canada, I knew next to nothing about the Caribbean Sea, and even less about the second longest coral reef in the world.

Lake Erie Sunset

Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, the community I hail from is surrounded on three sides by Lake Huron, Lake Erie, and Lake Ontario, all part of the chain of five lakes known as The Great LakesThe source of the largest fresh water system on Earth!

Wow! That’s pretty impressive…but I never gave it much thought.

For me, as a kid, it just meant there was a beach within an easy driving distance. Then again…as a kid, I never hesitated to ask, “Are we there yet?”
• The Canadian National Exposition (CNE) every year, marked the end of the summer holidays, but also meant I could watch the Air Show my heart pounding with excitement as planes soared, dipped, and performed amazing acrobatic feats above Lake Ontario.
• Lake Huron, more specifically, Tobermory—the Scuba Diving Capital of Canada, is where I almost learned how to scuba dive.

Over the years I had heard that the Great Lakes were getting polluted, that you had to limit the number of fish you ate from them—too many would make you sick. More frequently signs were being posted on the beaches that it wasn’t safe to go swimming—that too would make you sick.
For me…an inconvenience…but I still didn’t give it much thought.

Now I live on Roatan, my front yard is a dock, stretching into the Caribbean Sea. Only a few hundred feet beyond that, I watch waves break on the world’s second longest coral reef.

• I’ve seen seahorses, barracuda, sting-rays, Portuguese man-of-war, and numerous other sea creatures swimming from the reef toward the dock—gracing me with a closer look of their magnificence. I’ve watched a dolphin leisurely swim by, and marvelled at the detail outline of a starfish.
• I stroll along the shore (especially after a storm) picking up pieces of the reef that have broken off and washed ashore. Sea Fans, black sponge, and finger coral (to name only three, of the thousands of species) each piece, as unique as a snowflake, with a beauty of natural form no artist could ever match.

I’m in awe of all that I see and experience, but just like when I was at the beach on Lake Erie, or watching the planes swooping over Lake Ontario, or doing my first open water dive in Lake Huron…

I don’t give it enough thought!

I don’t appreciate enough the importance of preserving and protecting these marvels of nature and all they have to offer. They have been here forever and always will be…right?

Wrong! It is up to You and Me to educate ourselves about their value to our world, the legacy we owe our children, and how, everything we do, we need to – STOP – and consider the impact our actions might be having.

Fortunately in this era of accessible information, education and action are possible. Great Lakes Information Network (GLIN) and The Roatan Marine Park offer a wealth of insight into the health and sustainability of these bodies of water.

Enjoy the reef surrounding Roatan and all it has to offer…just remember it isn’t a man-made attraction (like Disneyworld) that can be replaced. It is a LIVING, BREATHING organism that will thrive if cherished—and will die if neglected or abused.


This story can also be read at Honduras Weekly

And will be the topic on The Roatan Vortex Show, Wednesday June 16, 9 AM – 11 AM, Roatan time (MTN) on Roatan Radio

3 Responses to “Please Don’t Walk on the Coral”

  1. Gennyca 14. Jun, 2010 at 6:43 am #

    Facebook message from a friend and resident on Roatan.

    I was at the beach the other day during the cruiseship day.Anyway there was a group of 10 people that went snorkling and they said” Thank god that coral was there or we would have drowned”. I tried to get them to tell me the story and apparently they all had a great time standing on OUR coral.I told them that it was not right and it would kill it and they all said” why its a bunch of dead rocks!”.ARGH!

  2. Linda Adam 14. Jun, 2010 at 8:40 pm #

    Fred & I try many times while snorkeling to go over to people standing or pulling themselves across the reef. We try to tell them even the brown part is alive with fish eggs, plant life, fish food…everything that keeps the coral alive. Many do not want to hear; they only want to get water out of their mask, rest. or hold onto the reef to take a picture. Only teaching and showing these people will work. If it’s a controlled group, an instructor could help them practice, float, get water out of their mask and stay to the side to look. Do signs help? The signs near the cruise ship area in West Bay are Out of the way and worn down. Who would help make and place new signage? Maybe a fund raising event. Maybe megaphone use by cruise ship staff to call out to the snorkeler when it happens. The message could start off soft…”please go to the sandy area to rest or clear your mask.” THEN, resort to more direct messages; “get off the reef, please”. Lastly, “hey…get out of the water and turn in your gear.” We see the staff in boats go over to “reef- standers” nicely telling to go outside the roped area; and they often get very harsh comments back in their face. (the roped areas seem to have blown away; that did help). Aiyeee, Let’s not give up trying. Thanks Gennyca …keep the message going.

  3. Darren 20. Sep, 2010 at 8:02 am #

    great article… i wish somehow the cruise ships could
    post simple notices outlining this problem… those ships go everywhere and the passengers probably do the same
    thing everywhere. Unfortunately, I think reefs all over
    the carribean are doomed over the next few generations.

    I was near Puerto Morales / Yucatan for a few days last year
    and I guess it’s so bad near Cancun that they insist you wear a
    life preserver to snorkle the reef. I did’nt realize that and
    swam out early in the morning and was gliding along when
    guys in motorboats started yelling at me… telling
    me I was gonna get a big fine, and then they banged into
    the reef with the motorboat.

    I think wearing a lifepreserver to snorkle is the worst and I feel it’s dangerous ..if a shark comes by I certainly want that animal
    to see that I can glide along and am not just flopping on the surface.

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