Why you shouldn’t touch the reef. Ever.

On a recent visit to the big island, Hawaii, I was shocked and angered by divers blatantly touching the reef.  Not just touching really, more like, grabbing onto the reef as freely and as often as they felt like.

It wasn’t just novice divers doing it, it was dive guides, and experienced divers.  It was so upsetting for me, I had to grind my teeth around my reg, and try to look away.  Because coral is a living thing, and more than just that, it provides food and home for the fish of the ocean.

Coral is a colony of polyps, who’s skeleton is their outer shell, which gives many people the impression that coral is just a rock.  Actually, coral is alive, and it’s extremely sensitive.  The oils on people’s fingers is potent enough to kill the coral, and prevent future growth of life.

the best way to watch this awesome feeding station? Hovering motionlessly.
the best way to watch this awesome cleaning station? Hovering motionlessly.

People often take a laissez faire attitude about diving.  It’s just me, grabbing the coral, to balance once, while I watch this turtle cruise by.  But it’s not just you, it’s countless ignorant and inexperienced people EVERY DAY AND EVERY YEAR.  It’s an ugly thing.  Imagine strangers cruising into your house or apartment and coating the walls with tar in the random places they touched.  Imagine them coating your food with tar, until eventually you lose whole rooms and have to finally leave and go somewhere else, or worse, starve to death.

Food and Shelter-Mario Chow.
Food and Shelter-Mario Chow.

As land mammals, we are absolutely privileged to be able to visit the ocean world and admire it’s beauty and wonder.  Don’t abuse that privilege for the amusement of one afternoon, think of the lasting consequences of every action you make under water, and how it will affect creatures exponentially over time.

Ways to be a protector of the ocean’s coral:

Other people will follow your bad example and think that touching is acceptable.  Set a good example and DO NOT TOUCH. (THis pretty much goes for anything, you may be picking up an empty shell, they may be smashing nudibranchs.)

Perfect your buoyancy so that you do not accidentally touch, kick, or drag gauges over living coral.

Use boats who do not throw anchors over living coral reefs.  Patronize operations who stress ocean conservation.

Did you know the world has already lost 20% of coral reef? Divers touching the reef isn’t the main cause (ocean acidification and rising ocean temperatures are) but do not be a part of the problem! Especially while you are enjoying the pleasure of exploring the ocean’s rain forest: where perhaps the cure for diseases lie, or untold treasures.

Here’s another fact for you: Corals cover less than .1% of the ocean.  but support over 1 in 4 marine animals.  Charles Darwin called them “the oases in the desert of the ocean”. When the coral is gone, the loss will be immeasurable.

look but don’t touch, leave only bubbles,


snap your fingers and it's gone.
snap your fingers and it’s gone.

3 thoughts on “Why you shouldn’t touch the reef. Ever.

  1. Pingback: San Pedro, Belize: Your Dream Island - Keycaribe Magazine

  2. Pingback: San Pedro, Belize: Your Dream Island – Caribbean Blog

  3. envirolineblog

    I love this post – super helpful! I wrote a post recently on ways that we rely on coral reefs + I’m currently writing on ways that we can help, check it out if you want 🙂

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