Are You Reef Friendly?
Each year millions of people travel to the US Virgin Islands on vacation. And one of the top vacation activities is snorkeling our world-class shallow reefs. But all of that human traffic can have a negative impact on coral, fish and marine eco systems. So, here are few snorkeling tips to help you enjoy these wonderful experiences; while minimizing your effect on sensitive marine life, coral reefs and sea grass beds.
#1 – DON’T STAND ON CORAL. Standing on or inadvertently kicking coral can kill decades of coral growth. Adjust your mask and snorkel BEFORE you go out. Use a commercial anti-fogging agent or spit method to reduce fogging. And if you get tired or need to adjust your equipment – find a shallow sandy spot to put your feet/fins down. If you are a poor swimmer or just enjoy a more relaxed adventure – consider wearing a life jacket or other floatation.
#2 – AVOID SHALLOW AREAS. Coral is home to millions of bacteria and stinging coral cells. Even minor contact can leave you with cuts, scrapes and a nasty infection or stinging “burn”. In addition to being painful, these toxins can even induce an allergic reaction in some people.
#3 – SEA TURTLES – They are amazing creatures; but avoid the temptation to touch them or ride them. If you stay motionless they will actual go back to feeding and you can watch them for hours!
#4 – AVOID COLLECT SOUVENIRS. The coral, starfish and shells you find are an integral part of the eco system. Shells are reused by other creatures for protection. The calcium and minerals of dead coral dissolve and are used by living coral to build the reef.
#5 – DON’T FEED FISH – It alters their natural feeding habits, diet and can help you and others avoid potential injury from aggressive feeding.
#6 – SEA GRASS BEDS – In many places it is illegal to damage sea grass beds. They are an important marine eco system . Sea turtles, conch and fish rely on the grasses for food. They also act as a nursery for many small fish, larval coral and crustaceans.
#7 – POLLUTION – Be sensitive to your “chemical impact” on marine life and aquatic plants. Retrieve plastic bags and bottles that blow into the water. Not only do they take many years to degrade; but countless creatures die each year because they mistake the plastic for food. Never discharge human waste or bilge water into the sea. And take care not to spill fuels, oils, lotions or other chemical contaminants.
#8 – USE CAUTION – When it comes to snorkeling, know your physical limitations and experience level and NEVER exceed them. Always snorkel with a buddy. Check local weather conditions, currents and surf advisories.
Snorkeling is a wonderful way to discover the amazing world beneath the waves while on vacation. And with a bit of care we can all experience the beauty and diversity of marine life that lives and depends on the coral reefs and sea grasses for their existence.
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