Coral Reef Conservation - How You Can Help June 17, 2015 16:01

I am studying to become a Master Scuba Diver with a focus on the Eco-environment. I am proud of it because I am petrified of sharks. Yep. I admit it. Thank you JAWS for scaring the crap out of everyone!  Still. Even if just a Hollywood Film, sharks are big and have crazy ragged teeth. So why on earth would I decide to get into diving then you ask? Well, it's simple. I have always loved nature. From the forest animals to the ocean, to microscopic life. I have always enjoyed seeing the beauty of creation. I guess it's the musician in me. It's an orchestra or color down there. The ocean. I am so passionate about it. I can't explain ecstatic feeling I get when I go diving.  I feel a profound reverence. It's part fascination, part meditation, part "I can't believe I am doing this!". I feel closest to God when I am in nature. Tree hugger? Guilty. Fish kisser? I do blow kisses to my Japanese Fighting Fish- and he likes it! The ocean, however, is to be respected for the great power she is. It's beautiful under the sea, but one must still be mindful that it isn't our natural environment.

My scuba buddies aren't fearful of sharks. They say you're lucky to see one these days. I have seen one. A big one. It was pretty amazing. His head was massive. He was about 6-7 feet. He was a Nurse Shark. I was still careful and respectful. They are considered more docile than say Bull or Tiger Sharks. However; they do have teeth. It's best to let them be. The dwindling shark population is a significant concern for many. I started with my concern for the reefs and colorfully decorated reef fish that are in decline. I am captivated by coral reefs and the fish and organisms that live there. I formulate skincare with this in mind. I am hoping to help bring more public awareness to South Florida and beyond.

Recently, I was invited to a coral reef conservation workshop in West Palm Beach. It was interesting to see the research and science developed from corals. Did you know that we humans have benefited from the use of corals in HIV, cancer, arthritis, and ulcer research? Even some fish have been used to study cancer and our immunity.  Part of what we learned in the workshop was that near the outlets, where we drain our sewage into the ocean; there are coral bleaching and disease sick corals. Corals are beautiful underwater living organisms and although they resemble plants, are animals. Corals form by landing on a hard substrate or rock inside the ocean, then reproduce from a single polyp asexually until they grow to resemble rocky areas in the sea. Corals protect our coast. Corals attract a variety of fish. Corals are declining, and some such as the Staghorn and Elkhorn are endangered. 

Pretty much everything we eat, use, throw away, makes its way back into the ocean. I have to wonder if the chemicals that we are treating our sewage with also significantly impact the corals in a negative way. I know that chlorine is used to treat sewage water. How does that affect the ocean? Along with petroleum/oil from boats and ocean liners not to mention the horrific oil spills - it's logical to assume that bacteria and algae are foremost affected by such things. Organisms that need nutrients become affected by the imbalance. Corals need algae too. Everything is a cycle, and everything needs to be within a safe level to work smoothly. Too many algae or not enough algae affect the pH of the water. Acidification, overfishing, damaging corals when boating and snorkeling/diving, and other factors contribute to the demise of corals. The human factor is something to consider. It's something we can control.

Here's a challenge. Since every flush makes its way back out to sea, why not wait a bit before sending a bowl full of water down the tube and back to the treatment plant, to be pumped full of "cleaners" that make it's way back to the ocean. Instead of flushing the toilet as often for every tissue- why not think twice about the water? It's going to be unnecessarily treated with chemicals even though it's relatively clean water. Maybe don't use the toilet for something so trivial. Instead of flushing at night for those late night bathroom trips, wait until morning. It's mostly water anyways, right? We can change a few habits and help a reef out. You're also helping yourself out. After all, remember that vital medical research to cure and aid in the recovery of disease is possible because of healthy and vibrant flourishing coral reefs. If we damage the ecological balance, we lose quite a bit. Keeping the ocean free from pollution needs to happen. Trash in the ocean should not be. We can do better. We must. Another idea would be to switch your detergent for washing your clothes to a more natural one. You can use vinegar, baking soda and essential oils to make a lovely washing soap for the washer machine. I throw in a lavender sachet for the dryer.

How about using vinegar and baking soda to clean tub grime, toilets, sinks, and counters? You can dilute with water and add essential oil to cover the vinegar scent. The smell will also dissipate very fast, and it's natural and not harmful to humans and pets like bleach vapors are. Vinegar may be used to clean just about any surface including windows and floors. Paper towels and trash? The best thing I can think of is to use less. I think I will be trying to use cloth napkins more after realizing how much paper I use on a daily basis. It really has me thinking. I mean I sometimes forget due to the American conveniences we all have, just what I am actually contributing to. I want to do more and learn more ways I can help to save the ocean. I love scuba diving and seeing the incredible fish, but they are dwindling and we are seeing less and less healthy reefs and a diminishing fish stock. It's not hopeless. We can turn this around. 

Can you believe I am helping save a reef when I scuba dive? I know! Rough job eh? My diving buddies and I enjoy cleaning up garbage in the ocean by cutting fishing line and disposing of plastics that choke and kill turtles, birds, and fish. It makes a huge difference. We are helping protect the third largest barrier reef in the world! Ours! Yes! We Floridians have the third largest barrier reef in the world. My diving buddies and I get a ton of satisfaction working in this way. Soon I will be reporting to scientists. That's my next certification. If you dive and want to learn more contact us. Maybe you can join in on the fun!

Before I let you go. Take a few minutes and think about what you do every day. Perhaps you have a few ideas you can share here. I'd love to read them and share them with my audience. Please comment or write to us and tell us how you've transitioned into an eco-conscious citizen. Maybe you can give us some tips. I would enjoy reading them!

Love the Ocean, Kiss a Fish. ;)

Love, 

Michelle Touchstone

Owner of Me & a Tree Skincare Bath & Beauty 

www.MeAndATree.com

Staghorn CoralMichelle Scuba Diving Florida Barrier ReefElkhorn Coral