Why you should help protect fish on or near coral reefs
Help protect fish on or near coral reefs.
Fish are absolutely necessary for coral reef health.
Fish need healthy coral reefs and coral reefs need healthy fish populations. In the same way people care for their homes, fish maintain coral reef ecosystems.
Algae compete with corals for space. They grow rapidly to crowd out or smother coral neighbors. Herbivores, like parrotfish and surgeonfish, clean coral reefs like housekeepers by eating algae. This creates space for corals to settle and grow.
When these fish are missing algae can overgrow the living coral.
All fish within a coral reef help fertilize the corals. Fish like demoiselle fish swarm above their coral homes like living nets to gather plankton.
Grunts, snappers and other foragers that eat away from the reef excrete new nutrients into the reef system when they return to the sheltering reef at night to rest.
When the fish defecate over the reef the corals capture the pellets of nitrates and phosphates to fertilize the algae that sustains them and gives them their lovely colors.
Unchecked populations of corallivores, such as starfish, gastropods, annelid worms, and some sea urchins and crabs, feed on living corals, spread disease, and degrade reef structure. Grunts, triggerfish, and wrasse act like exterminators by eating coral predators, controlling their populations.
A healthy reef is home to many species of coral that build and maintain the reef structure. Corals provide places for small fish to hide and attract big fish searching for food.
Two more reasons not to fish on or near coral reefs
There are a couple of other rewards for pleasure yachts who leave coral reef fish to help coral reefs thrive and grow.
Ciguatera Fish Poisoning
Over 400 species of fish have caused ciguatera poisoning, most of them taken from coral reefs or neighboring lagoon waters. Fish caught in the open ocean are less likely to be poisonous.
Protected Areas and Local Needs
Except in designated marine sanctuaries where fishing, disturbing or taking any creature is strictly prohibited, coral reefs around the world are already severely overfished by the people who live there. In most Pacific Islands the islanders have ownership of the reefs from the shore to the drop-off and the chief may designate some reef areas as sanctuaries to allow it to recover. Visiting pleasure yachts are already unwelcome in many areas where previous yachts have been spearing fish the local people depend on. In Fiji, Vanuatu and the Melanesian areas of New Caledonia you must always ask permission from the local chief to even snorkel on their reefs.
Help the coral reefs
Coral reef communities are fascinatingly beautiful, enjoy them, don't destroy them. Take photos and videos and leave the sea creatures to do their jobs.