It’s no secret that the world’s coral reefs are in serious trouble, their prospects threatened by everything from climate change to overfishing; in fact, scientists predict that without drastic action nearly all of these dazzling ecosystems could be gone by 2050. Here’s how this Indian organisation is rehabilitating the coral eco-system and what you can do to be a reef-safe traveller.
Wildlife Trust of India
Headquartered in New Delhi, India – Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) is a leading Indian nature conservation organisation that is striving and is dedicated to the service of the environment. Founded in 1998, WTI’s members hail from varied backgrounds from conservation biologists and scientists to wildlife veterinarians and communication specialists. The organisation also has an operational project that is helping save and protect India’s unique marine life and oceans which conducted India’s first private-public restoration of a degraded coral reef in Mithapur in Gujarat.
Coral reefs are found in tropical and semi-tropical waters. The Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep Islands, Gulf of Mannar, Tamil Nadu and Gulf of Kutch, Gujarat are the four major coral reef ecosystems that exist in India. The coral’s eco-system protects coastlines from torrential rains and flooding. It provides food and a breeding ground for marine life. For humans, it is also a means of livelihood as it contributes to the tourism and fishing industry.
The mission of the project has been to develop and implement appropriate strategies for the conservation of the Mithapur Reef, situated 12 kilometres south of the Gulf of Kutch in Gujarat. They have also succeeded in rehabilitating coral reefs that were harmed by natural calamities or human infiltration in Gujarat’s Marine National Park.
To date, the project has identified at least 17 species of corals in Mithapur, including a locally-extinct one.
How you can contribute to saving our oceans
Limit your plastic use
Saving the world’s coral reefs – which support a quarter of all marine species as well as half a billion people around the world – starts on dry land.
One of the biggest threats to marine life that play an integral role in the health of coral reefs is plastic, which never breaks down. Instead, it breaks up into tiny little pieces called micro-plastics. If the intact plastic doesn’t kill the marine life, the chemicals that latch onto these fragments can be severely toxic to animals that ingest them.
With five trillion pieces of plastic already thought to be bobbing about in our oceans, avoiding single-use items such as bags, bottles, and straws can help to prevent adding to this colossal issue.
Opt for eco-certified travel operators
Making an effort to choose the most responsible marine tourism operators while travelling can also help to save coral reefs. The first step is to ensure that operators are licensed and their guides are certified. Ideally, operators will also hold a form of national or international eco-certification.
Become a citizen scientist
A growing number of conservation foundations, national parks, and eco-friendly hotels worldwide run citizen scientist programs that allow everyday travellers to play an active role in contributing to the long-term protection of the world’s coral reefs.
Become a volunteer on a reef conservation project
A vast array of marine conservation projects are now offered by most major voluntourism organisations. Projects may see you assist in conservation initiatives including beach clean-ups, building community awareness, physical monitoring of coral reefs and marine life, and even replanting healthy coral fragments onto damaged or bleached reefs. With many projects including a scuba diving course, it’s a great way to give back to the reef while picking up your certification.
Admire corals from a distance
Comprised of hundreds of thousands of tiny animals called polyps, corals are more delicate than they may look. Take care to practise neutral buoyancy when scuba diving, and always be aware of your flippers when you’re diving or snorkelling – stirring up sediment with your fins can smother corals, while simply touching corals can kill them. Even if a coral is not visibly harmed, the transfer of oils and bacteria contained on human skin can make these fragile invertebrates more vulnerable to disease and death.
Choose sustainable seafood
You can help to save coral reefs simply by making more informed decisions about what type of seafood you eat and when. About one-third of all saltwater fish species live at least part of their lives on coral reefs, and all play important roles in the health of these habitats. The overfishing of parrotfish and surgeonfish populations, for example, allows algae to grow unchecked, causing some coral reef ecosystems to morph from technicolour seascapes to fields of seaweed and rubble.
Avoid purchasing coral products
Coral can take decades to reach maturity, and if it is harvested, surrounding coral beds often do not recover. By purchasing coral jewellery and other types of coral souvenirs on your travels, you are effectively contributing to the decline of corals around the world.
Collecting dead coral fragments off the beach to take home with you is also illegal in some countries.