Help Corals Stay Healthy

Everyone can help keep corals healthy and safe. Check out the recommendations below and share with a friend.

a snorkeler swims above a coral reef with fish surrounding her.
A snorkeler recreating responsibly.

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Recreate Responsibly

  • Hands (and feet) off! Coral is delicate and injuries take a long time to heal. Be careful not to touch, stand on, or kick coral when snorkeling or diving. Coral is protected in national parks and collecting it is illegal.
  • “Leave no trace” in the ocean. Chemicals from products we use, even those we put on our own bodies, can hurt corals. Use mineral-based, reef-safe sunscreens. Trash hurts all marine life so be sure to “pack it out.”
  • Prevent the spread of coral disease. Corals can get sick and die from bacteria and viruses, which spread through water and by touch. Slow the spread of coral diseases, such as Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease, by disinfecting your snorkel and dive gear between sites.
  • Report diseased AND healthy corals to the Southeast Florida Action Network (SEAFAN). These reports can let scientists know which reefs are diseased and which are resilient, and can also help them decide where to do targeted research and intervention. Reports of healthy corals are just as important as reports of diseased corals.
boat tied to mooring ball
Tying your boat to a mooring ball or anchoring well away from coral can help keep corals safe.

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Be a responsible boater

  • Stay clear of coral reefs. Corals that take hundreds of years to grow can be severely damaged in seconds by anchors or boats running into them. Plan your trip and use up-to-date charts and GPS software. Keep a lookout to keep from grounding. Use mooring balls where available or anchor well away from coral. Never leave anchors, chain, or line behind as these can still damage coral on their own.
  • Follow all fishing, diving, and anchoring rules. These rules protect sensitive areas and enhance your visitor experience by giving marine life safe places to rest, feed, and reproduce.
  • Follow clean boating principles. Human waste and trash are bad for corals. Dispose of trash properly and use pump out stations instead of dumping waste into the ocean. Bilge water can pollute reefs with gas and oil, and spread invasive species and marine diseases, so use a bilge sock to soak it up.

Take care of coral reefs from home

  • Lower your carbon footprint. Increased carbon in the atmosphere causes rising ocean temperatures, which lead to coral bleaching and ocean acidification, which dissolves coral skeletons. Switch to energy efficient products at home and support initiatives to reduce global carbon emissions.

  • Eat sustainable seafood. Fish are important parts of coral reef ecosystems and they help keep corals healthy. Make sustainable seafood choices, which prevent overfishing of species to help protect habitats and other marine life.
  • Dispose of waste properly. All flowing water eventually makes its way to the ocean. Corals need clear water, so land-based sources of pollution like human waste, fertilizers, and sediment can stress corals. Apply fertilizers and pesticides sparingly. Support tertiary wastewater treatment initiatives so human waste stays off the reef. Promote low-impact development and green infrastructure to reduce runoff in coastal areas.
healthy coral reef surrounded by fish
You can take measures at home to help keep corals like these found at Dry Tortugas National Park healthy.

NPS photo

Last updated: April 22, 2021

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