Snorkeling is one of the top activities on St John. Each year thousands of visitors step into our waters to discover the amazing variety and beauty of the reefs and marine eco systems that surround our island. And that’s where the trouble starts. With so much “traffic” it is imperative that each and every one of us tries to mitigate our impact on these sometimes fragile environments.
PROPER FIT OF MASK, FINS and SNORKEL. Struggling with ill-fitting gear probably causes more people to stand on or damage coral than any other factor. Not sure how it should fit? Ask for assistance at one of the many retail outlets on island or consider a snorkeling excursion where the boats guide will give you invaluable info on choosing and using snorkeling gear.
DO NOT TOUCH – as tempting as it may be there are lots of coral and marine life that can sting! And if that’s not reason enough to look-not-touch then consider the life of that creature. The coral reefs are teaming with bacteria and many creatures have developed a complex mucus that covers their skin for protection. When you touch them – you remove this layer of protection and could cause disease.
DO NOT STAND ON CORAL HEADS – sounds obvious but I’ve seen too many people stand on coral to adjust their mask or take a break from swimming! The damage this causes takes years to rebuild. If you’re an inexperienced snorkeler or poor swimmer – consider using some sort of floatation device so that you can enjoy the view safely. If you must stand – find a sandy spot and adjust equipment or rest.
DO NOT STIR UP SEDIMENT/SAND – it can settle on corals and sponges and literally suffocate and starve them to death. Always maintain a good distance between you and the bottom and remember – those fins extend well beyond your foot! Consider using the short fins – they’re easier to walk in and there’s less chance they’ll strike coral as you explore the shallow reefs.
Corals take years to grow under optimal conditions. With the world’s oceans warming and pollution and human activities putting pressure on our coral reef systems – it’s more important than ever to take a few basic steps to reduce our impact on St John’s coral reefs and marine life so that they may be enjoyed for generations to come!