Coastal Water Quality

Coral Reefs

Youth Corps

Sea Turtles

Coral Reef


About CORAL Reefs

-The Coral Reef Ecosystem
Time is Running Out
-Threats to Caribbean Coral Reefs
Coral Reefs and Water Quality

The Coral Animal

Corals are tiny colonial animals that live in the clear, clean, virtually nutrient-free ocean waters of the tropics.

There are many kinds of coral that exist in many different and beautiful formations. Some have flexible skeletons that delicately sway back and forth to the rhythm of the ocean waves, and others form hard stony skeletons.

Over thousands of years, stony coral colonies create the offshore structures known as reefs by slowly depositing limestone skeleton as they grow. These offshore walls protect our coastlines from threatening storm waves and contribute to the formation of beautiful white-sand beaches. Some of the world’s coral reefs are so large they can be seen from outer space!

Corals are solar powered construction companies, the coral animals accomplish this awesome task of reef building in symbiotic partnership with single-celled plants that live inside the corals’ tissue. From sunlight, these plant cells harness the energy needed to power the corals’ reef building activities.


The Coral Reef Ecosystem

The coral reef ecosystem refers to all of the relationships between the many plants and animals of the reef itself and two otherGrouper connected habitats: the sea-grass beds and the red mangrove trees. These plants and animals have been evolving in intricate and dynamic balance with each other and with their environment over millions of years, creating one of the most beautiful, biologically diverse, and economically important natural areas on Earth.

The coral reef ecosystem operates using a renewable
energy source (sun light) and recycles all wastes.

  • Coral reefs are vital to the fishing and tourism industries of the islands and coastlines they grace. Healthy coral reefs contribute to the formation of beautiful white-sand beaches. A carefully managed coral reef fishery produces commercially valuable fish and shellfish for island restaurants, and food for local communities. In a 1998 report, the U.S. Department of State estimated coral reef-related tourism to be a $90 billion annual industry for Caribbean islands.
  • Pharmaceuticals currently used in the treatment of heart disease and cancers were discovered on coral reefs, and new compounds isolated from corals show potential as powerful anti-microbial and antiviral agents to combat disease in the future.
  • Globally, the quality of life on our blue planet depends on healthy oceans, and the health of the oceans depends in large part on the health, productivity, and diversity of the world’s coral reefs.


Time is Running Out for Our Coral Reefs

Our coral reefs are rapidly and irreparably being damaged by both coastal and inland activities of man. The severity of this destruction worldwide has prompted the U.S. Department of State and the United Nations to spread awareness of this serious environmental crisis by declaring 1997 the “International Year of the Reef” and 1998 the “International Year of the Oceans.” Coral reef experts are predicting that the worlds coral reefs have just thirty-to-fifty years of life remaining (a conservative estimate), and fear the repercussions this will have on the global atmosphere.

In response to this crisis, many islands and nations have begun participating in International Coral Reef Initiatives, forming regional task forces to address local reef conservation issues. Unfortunately, the implementation of “real time” solutions to coral reef conservation often conflicts with the short-term interests of government and private industry. Pillar CoralToday, the majority of coral reef conservation dollars are allocated toward extensive coral reef mapping and monitoring programs. Although monitoring is needed to assess the success or failure of coral reef management initiatives, comprehensive monitoring efforts take years to complete and may leave us with an expensive record of where living coral reefs used to be. CORALations works in partnership with local governments and communities to propel effective public education initiatives, implement alternate domestic and industrial waste-water treatment technologies, establish marine fishery reserves, and facilitate the implementation and enforcement of sustainable development practices. Your membership helps to insure that immediate and proactive approaches to Caribbean coral reef conservation are emphasized and funded. Our Caribbean base of operations allows us to more effectively work with Caribbean island communities.


Threats to Caribbean Coral Reefs

Inadequately treated sewage and agricultural runoff damage the coral reef by overloading nutrients into this delicately balanced system. Sewage discharged into our coastal waters also presents serious health risks to people who enjoy Caribbean beaches. In the Caribbean many residents and hotels discharge sewage directly into their coastal waters. For economic reasons, many Caribbean governments continue to rely on outdated wastewater treatment technologies for public sanitation. Millions of gallons of inadequately treated sewage and industrial waste are discharged from these facilities into coastal waters every day.

Reckless development and careless land clearing exposes soil which is washed into coastal waters with every rainfall. Minute particles of soil can float for long periods of time blocking out the sunlight the corals and sea-grass beds need for their survival. This silt eventually settles, directly suffocating the corals and sea-grass.

Direct destruction of mangroves for coastal development and for use as a dump for raw sewage and other waste has destroyed or modified acres of these critical wetlands throughout the Caribbean. Mangroves provide critical nursery and feeding grounds for reef fish, open-ocean fish, shellfish, and endangered species of sea birds. Mangrove wetlands also trap sediment from natural runoff protecting adjacent sea-grass and coral reefs.

Industrial water pollution threatens coastal coral reefs and poisons fish and shellfish. Many animals, including humans, exposed to this chemical contamination suffer impacts to their immune systems, making them more susceptible to infection and disease. Microbiologists have recently discovered that the mixtures of organic and inorganic chemicals discharged into our ocean waters may actually be "feeding" micro-organisms that cause disease in people and marine animals.

Over-fishing is transforming healthy coral reefs into reefs overgrown with algae. Some methods of fishing, including trapping, trawling and flushing with chemicals, directly damage critical habitat necessary for propagating and protecting fish. Marine scientists have documented that spear fishing selectively eliminates entire fish species from the food chain, ultimately resulting in an imbalance that destroys coral. Balanced reef fish populations are essential to maintaining healthy coral reefs.

Today in the Caribbean, anchors and military bombing maneuvers continue to destroy centuries old coral growth and critical fish habitat in just a matter of seconds.

Coral ReefCareless or inexperienced swimmers, snorkelers and SCUBA divers visiting reefs cause damage by stepping on and touching corals. Reef visitors sometimes remove a piece of coral, or a sponge or a snail shell to take as a souvenir, completely unaware that it is home to a living organism. (This awareness often comes later, when they smell their suit cases!) Corals and many other reef creatures are protected and their removal and import back into the United States may result in serious fines.

Oil spills repeatedly offer dramatic examples of how, in minutes, human error and lack of regulation can destroy an entire ecosystem. Oil from road runoff and the improper disposal of used motor oil in rivers and oceans contaminates our coastal waters.

Irresponsible motorboat and personal watercraft operators can injure or disturb endangered sea turtles and manatees feeding in shallow sea-grass beds. Speeding watercraft, even with no propellers, have been cited in collision deaths with manatees in Florida and Puerto Rico. Boats and personal watercraft speeding through mangroves, flush birds from their nests, exposing eggs and hatchlings to the hot tropical sun.

Trash is an increasing problem, both aesthetically and environmentally, in areas where people live or visit. Plastic shopping bags and rubber balloons floating in the ocean are mistaken for food by sea turtles and dolphins, with deadly consequences. Plastic six-pack can holders entangle and choke sea birds, and carelessly discarded fishing lines and nets indiscriminately kill fish, birds and other sea creatures they entangle. Even bio-degradable food buried on beaches sustains large fire-ant colonies that devour bird and turtle hatchlings.


About CORALations | About Coral Reefs | Ocean Conservation Youth Corps
 Sea Turtles |
Coral Reef Restoration

CORALations, Inc.
P.O. Box 750
Culebra, PR 00775
787-556-6234 / Fax 530-618-4605
1-877-77-CORAL 1-877-77(2-6725)