School Research paper Harvesting Coral Reefs Our Earth is beautiful, but it is only as beautiful as we make it. Right now we aren’t doing very well. Two million people world wide own marine aquariums, about 800,000 of them are in United States (“Conservation”). It’s nice to have live fish and corals taken from reefs, but what if I told you that 2/3 of the world’s coral reefs have been damaged by pollution and over fishing, if we keep this up the worlds coral reefs will be gone in 20 years (Weekly Reader “Coral”). We do have artificial reefs, and trying our best to maintain them. Marine reserves are key to the survival of our ocean. But aquarium trade is a big down fall; it can be fixed by captive breeding fish. “Coral reefs are often called “the rain forests of the sea” because they are home to so much life” (Weekly Reader “Protecting”). When we hear the word “endangered” we think of animal species on the verge of extinction. What if that same word was to describe a whole ecosystem? Sounds unreal, it’s not 10% of the worlds reefs are dying, 30% may follow in the next 20 years. Coral reefs are millions of years old and we’re destroying them. We’re destroying so many ancient coral reefs, history is slowly slipping away. “The 125 miles of reefs in the Florida Keys have been badly damaged by ships and fishing boats that have run aground or by anchors that have been dropped on the fragile reefs” (Weekly Reader “Helping”). Part of the problem is that we’re just careless. We drop anchors on reefs, put nets over reefs to catch fish, and ships chip off parts of reefs. If we just think a little we could save a lot. We rely on reefs also. We rely on it for food, jobs, reefs also provide medicine. The Great Barrier Reef brings in about 975 million dollars (Weekly Reader “Reef”). When reefs are destroyed the species living there are at risk. Researchers say that at least 1 million species of aquatic life live on the worlds reefs. On October 29, 2006, new reef species were found off the coast of Hawaii (Satterfield). The depletion of reefs is an area of concern. Even as reefs are being depleted, there are several efforts underway to conserve them. One method is artificial reefs. Ships are sunken to create artificial reefs. Ships aren’t the only things that create artificial reefs; they also sink tanks, school buses, oil rigs, and more. Why do fish come to artificial reefs? The same reason they come to coral reefs, they provide shelter and food. Florida has more than 1,500 artificial reefs. Artificial reefs have more population of fish than at natural reefs. They bring more fish because they are usually bigger and offer more shelter. “A lot of natural reef populations are widely known and are being fished day after day, so the artificial reefs reduce that pressure on a daily basis" (Gravitz). Artificial reefs are used for a variety of purposes. They lure fisherman to it and keep the stress off the reefs, also to create new reefs. Another conservation method for reefs is establishing marine reserves. Marine reserves are areas of the ocean that cannot be fished. Studies show that the population of a specific species is considerably larger in marine reserves, “on an average 3 times the density higher than fished locations” (Sale). Marine reserves can be compared to national parks. They’re put in place to protect wild life, sometimes because they’re scarce, also to bring money. In marine reserves the abundance of fish species is high. Surprisingly there have been limited studies of marine reserves such as, average size, density and the amount of species. Marine reserves have brought to the table, something that could be only seen on reefs (Sale). The most fished species tend to reestablish their population; some species had 1000% higher density inside marine reserves (PISCO). Marine reserves produce 200 times as many fish in fishing waters. Marine reserves are key to restoring our oceans to their health and beauty. Reserves keep marine life in their same state without the stress of fisherman or habitat loss. The biggest marine reserve in the world is in Hawaii. With 140,000 square miles of protected marine territory, this protects more than 7,000 species of marine life (Green Peace). There are 12 marine reserves set up off the coast Los Angles alone. In Australia, they rezoned their park drastically and in return fish species doubled in size and population. Marine reserves in New Zealand, Australia, California, the Philippines, and Kenya had species that were heavily hunted; they came back faster once in captivity (Stokstad). The next area of concern is aquarium trade. Certain species are particularly vulnerable to aquarium trade such as: clown fish, trigger fish, tangs, butterfly fish the list goes on. A combination of heavy exploitation and destructive fishing methods has brought on the concern of the fate of the banggai cardinal fish. This is also happening to aquarium trade species, which is pushing the captive breeding program. Surveys in Hawaii have led us to believe that high counts of fishing contributed to the collapse of the Hawaiian fishery (Sale). (A fishery is hatchery for fish). Almost all marine inhabitants (fish, invertebrates, anemones, and coral) are caught in the wild; there is some attempt at captive breeding. “You’ve got 20 to 25 million fish being collected every year and some studies show that half of those die in the process” (“Conservation”). Some collectors of marine fish use chemicals that stun the fish and make them easier to capture, this ends up killing them (Conservation). It’s hard to evaluate your research if you are working with aquarium trade, “because of yearly fluctuations in the recruitment of common species, the yellow tang can be substantial” (Sale). There is one way you can help if you are an aquarium hobbyist like me, buy captive bred fish and corals! This will help preserve the wild marine life. We need to cut back on taking live fish and corals from reefs for long term success in the aquarium hobby (Drs. Foster & Smith). Captive bred fish “are very hardy, less stressed, and adjust more quickly to the conditions of a home aquarium”. Captive bred fish are more disease resistant and they already eat prepared foods (Drs. Foster & Smith). These fish are readily available. “Aquacultured specimens are our only alternative to wild caught fish and invertebrates and it is our commitment to ensure the future of the hobby as well as conserve the natural reef environment” (ORA). “Think about all the rock in your tank, all your friends with rock, all the fish stores, and that's a lot of rock. Some might say, 'Hey it's just rock man!' And that's true. But that's rock with a lot of life on it and rock that is providing habitat for many of our friends from the ocean. How long can one of these little islands provide rock for us before we have to move on to another island” (Rogers)? If we act now, we can slow or even stop the progression of harvesting reefs. Our oceans are in a state of decay, the most beautiful things in the sea are being destroyed. Coral reefs are being destroyed, by destructive fishing methods, and the removal of live stock from the reef. This used to seem hopeless but now there is hope. There are artificial reefs being created to bring fish population back and also taking the stress of the natural reefs. Marine reserves also are helping; they board off parts of the ocean, bringing back fish population. Aquarium trade is making many species endangered, because of the growing aquarium hobby. This can be avoided if we captive breed marine life. We can breed in captivity and we won’t have to take it from reefs. The fish hobbyists industry needs to make some changes. Marine/aquarium fish stores that sell to hobbyist need to carry more captive bred marine life. The captive bred stock should be clearly labeled. The distributors that sell to the aquarium stores should donate money toward conservation programs. Hobbyists are actually preserving the marine life and appreciate them as opposed to others who overfish for a source of food. The time to act is now if we want this hobby, no this ecosystem, to live on, beyond our lives.